In 1996, Lewis Mumford wrote:
In Herman Melville's great classic of the sea "Moby Dick", the mad Captain Ahab drives his ship and his crew to destruction in his satanic effort to conquer the white whale - the symbol of all the powers outside man that would limit or lame him. Toward the end, as his mad purpose approaches its climax, Ahab has a sudden moment of illumination and says to himself: "All my means are sane; my motives and object mad". In some such terms, one may characterise the irrational applications of science and technology today. But we have yet to find our moment of self-confrontation and illumination.
Can we have our moment of ecological self-confrontation and illumination without a change in our education system from a process of drilling in rigid compartmented subjects to a flexible topic orientated menu for building personal bodies of knowledge?
Environmental education is not environmental science. Environmental science explains how the environment works. Environmental education is about issues. It is a process of self-confrontation and illumination pointing to the future battle to save us from our own excesses as consumers. Increasingly, in the lifetime of our children, the conflict will be between the pressure of development on the special places where, as individuals, we feel we belong, and the achievement of sustainable living for the world as a whole. The old Welsh word 'cynefin' defines these places as our special 'patch', a spot that has been singled out, or shaped, by people in the past, and which in turn conditions our present life. Everyone knows their cynefin. It is a place, usually incorporating some features of the local historical and natural heritage, from which we draw the physical, biological, social and spiritual resources necessary for life. It may be the road where we live, or it could be the open space where we take our exercise. We have protective feelings about it, and oppose any developments that would change or destroy its valued features. Environmental education has to be structured around the concept of cynefin as a multi-layered knowledge system to explain how these particular areas that amalgamate environment and people, the human ecological niche, may be protected, and at the same time, utilised, within the mainstream of consumer driven economic development. The main questions environmental education should address are 'How do we use natural resources?" and How do we manage the environmental impact of our uses?” Educational reform has far to go to place these questions at the centre of the curriculum.
Things began to simmer in the 1970s and came to a head following the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Here are some reminders of how European teachers and pupils thought about the need for change at this time.
- Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality, and adequate conditions of life, in an environment that permits a life of dignity and well-being. UN Conference on the Environment Stockholm 1972
- The problem of the environment is humanity's number one problem, and environmental education must be regarded as a priority. Particular attention should be given here to young people, so that the world's future leaders can learn to manage its affairs better than their elders. Prof Mario Pavan Chairman International Organising Committee European Nature Conservation Year 1995
- The need for a high priority for environmental education has arisen because the environmental debate has shifted from a focus on single environmental issues to a growing realisation that environment and economics, or conservation and development, must be viewed together, if either part of the equation is to be sustainable, and if we are to bequeath to our children, and their children, a healthy and resource-rich environment". Stephen Stirling England
- The need for environmental education at the international level was recognised, and its development requested, through Recommendation 96 of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm 1972. This stated that the Secretary General, the Organisations of the UN, particularly the UNESCO and the other international agencies concerned, should, after consultation and agreement, take the necessary steps to establish an international programme in environmental education. This should be interdisciplinary in approach, in school and out of school, encompassing all levels of education, and directed towards the general public in particular, the ordinary citizen living in rural and urban areas, youth and adult alike. It should educate him to the simple steps he might take, within his own means, to manage and control his environment. United Nations Conference on the Environment Stockholm 1972
- to foster clear awareness of, and concern about, economic, social, political, and ecological interdependence, in urban and rural areas;
- to provide every person with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, values, attitudes, commitment and skills, needed to protect and improve the environment;
- to create new patterns of behaviour of individuals, groups, and society as a whole, towards the environment. UNESCO Conference Tblisi 1977
- Teaching today is strongly influenced by (classical) subjects, so by far most of the teaching within a European dimension takes place, and will take place, in subjects. Every increase in knowledge will be incorporated there. Much less will be performed in interdisciplinary teaching.
Nevertheless, the European Dimension itself has a cross-disciplinary character. So the concept asks for a co-ordinated approach across the various subjects in schools curricula, with an impact on teacher training and production of teaching materials. Bernd Janssen Director of the 'Europe at School Co-ordinating Unit' Bonn
- The main difficulties to promoting environmental education in schools are:-
- the strict, rigid teaching methods, focusing on knowledge of facts;
- a crowded curriculum;
- approaches to learning that are biased towards science, and not
- not enough active learning methods;
- too little outside or fieldwork activities;
- very limited activities concerned with improving environmental
awareness among society;
- financial difficulties faced by many schools;
- inadequate teaching resources for teachers and students.
Slawermir Karwowski Poland
The way forward:
- In the last few years the importance of environmental education for social change appears to have gained new interest. Policy-makers outside the field of environment are starting to realise that real change demands the involvement of the entire community, both individuals and groups. The document 'Caring for the Earth' sums up what it is all about. Values, economies and societies, different from most that prevail today, are needed if we are to care for the Earth and build a better quality of life for all. Peter Bos The Netherlands
- Environmental education should focus on areas of nature conservation, remediation, environmental protection and resource management. In addition, it must place emphasis on political, economic, technical and human aspects of environmental protection, such as ethics, aesthetics, and social issues. This education programme should not look just at theory, but also at how to apply principles, and achieve goals through a problem, and a value orientated, process. Elizabeth Vajadovich Visy Hungary
- Given the growing environmental imperative, the following criteria were seen to constitute a new responsibility for the education system, that is, the promotion of environmental awareness, and of dynamic qualities in students, such as initiative, independence, commitment and readiness to accept responsibility. Appropriate school initiatives at all attainment levels should include the following dimensions:-
- personal involvement of students and their emotional
- interdisciplinary learning and research;
- reflective action to improve environmental conditions;
- involvement of students, at least partially, in decision-making or
problem-finding, on procedures, and on monitoring their work;
- the concept of environment should be broadly defined, not
limiting school initiatives to the natural environment, but
including social, economic, cultural, and technological
dimensions between schools and community, to links with
K. Kelly-Laine ENSI (The international Environmental and School Initiatives Project) OECD
- In 'Caring for the Earth', the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists nine principles for sustainable living. All of them have implications for education, because without a means of helping people to understand their importance, and to live sustainably, the principles will remain ideals. Education is particularly important in enabling people to change personal attitudes, and practice through helping people to re-examine their values, and alter their behaviour (Principle 6), and in enabling communities to care for their own environments (Principle 7), through training, and information dissemination. John Baines IUCN
- I believe the following skills and qualities are essential if we are to educate for sustainability
- self-esteem, confidence, motivation;
- co-operation, trust and empathy;
- communication skills, including negotiation and decision-making;
- an ability for critical thinking, lateral thinking and problem-
- self-reliance, an ability to take responsibility for ones own
- future thinking;
- feelings of belonging to the natural world, and an understanding
of our relationship to all life on earth;
- creativity, imagination, a spiritual and personal response to the
- an ability for reflection and evaluation.
Geoff Cooper England
- The International Environmental Education Programme (IEEP) has developed the holistic concept of environment (natural and man-made). It has also examined the philosophy, goals and objectives, guiding principles of environmental education, and strategies for their incorporation into the formal and non-formal sectors.
The Programme's major impact in the exchange of information and experience is achieved through its quarterly newsletter 'Connect', published in eight languages, and disseminated to 20,000 institutions and professionals in the world. Similarly the directory of institutions active in environmental education promotes interaction among 1,500 institutions in all regions.
The Programme has emphasised environmental education with investigation and problem-solving approaches as early in schooling as possible. In this context, the use of the environment as a living laboratory is encouraged at all levels of education. This facilitates teaching/learning, and saves funds for classical laboratory set-ups and equipment.
Environmental education, post-Rio, must empower individuals and communities, as called for in Agenda 21, for making informed decisions concerning the environment, and the sustainable development issues that affect them individually, and collectively, at local, national, and international levels.
A major challenge of environmental education is to harmonise the needs and actions of environmental interventions with sustainable development priorities. The objectives of industrial and agricultural sectors for sustainability, and the skill potentialities of the business sector, have to match the needs of a decent life-style in the social sector. Much research is needed for revising current policies and guidelines. to meet the challenges of environmental education in promoting 'learning to be' in the environment which is the only home for the present and future generations of the human family. Dr A Ghafoor Ghaznawi UNESCO
The European dimension:
- The Treaty on European Union which came into force on 1 November 1993 includes two provisions (Articles 126 and 127, Chapter 3) which enlarge the field of community action in the sphere of education and vocational training. The role of the Commission in these fields can be seen as a natural response to the recommendation that 'member states cooperate, exchange information and compare their experience on issues common to their educational systems'
Learning is most valuable when it relates to our own experience and lifestyles. These learning contexts are the home, community, leisure, school, post-school education, and the workplace. K Sankey Scotland UK
The practical approaches:
These quotes come from 'Europa' Nos 3 and 4 (1992-3), Centre for European Education, Lisbon 'Naturopa' No 74 (1994) Centre Naturopa, Council of Europe 'Euro-Link' 1994. This was a newsletter written by Portuguese, Dutch, English and German children who were members of the European Clubs Schools Network. It covers the period from the early 1970s to the 1990s. I was part of a collaborative effort to use Agenda 21 as a bridge between Portuguese and UK schools and orientate the curricula towards school/community action for sustainability.
German and English in a High School where a European Club was formed three years ago. We try to make students conscious of their roles in the society they belong to. They are grouped according to their interests and their age. They study, they visit institutions, they invite experts to school, they organise exhibitions, they play, they sing, they cook.
Every year a plan is presented, always covering the three areas.
1 The place where they live- The UN convention on the Rights of Children gives all children the right to speak on their own behalf about their concerns. Whether children are concerned about the environment, about their own lack of education, or clean drinking water, about wars between countries, or violence in their own homes, we, the adults, must learn to listen, and to take their experiences, and their ideas seriously. Children are not always right, no more than adults, but they have the right to be heard.
The local process, where the children talk about their own experiences, and the situation in their community, is the basis of the 'Voice of the Children' campaigns. The simplicity is the beauty of it: workshops and hearings can be organised in a local school, in a scout troop, in the city hall, or an international conference. The important thing is that many children are involved, and that they are genuinely concerned about the questions they raise. Adults are facilitators only, not to lead the process.
Kristin Eskeland Norway
- Undoubtedly, one of the major missions of the school is to educate European citizens. And that cannot be achieved if the fundamental principles at the root of our society - respect for human rights, for democracy, for difference, tolerance, solidarity etc. are not only taught but experienced by living them.
That is why the European Clubs were set up in Portuguese schools. They are the main instrument to dynamise the programme "European Dimension in Education" designed in 1988/9 to associate actions of the Centre for European Education with those of the Ministry of Education.
The fundamental aim of this Portuguese programme is educating for Europe, looking forward to Europe in a world context, creating a true' European awareness' in the whole school community.
Special emphasis is given to putting into practice measures envisaged in the Resolutions and Recommendations on European Dimension in Education both from the European Community and the Council of Europe.
The development of the above mentioned programme involves among others, the following procedures. We have to:
• co-ordinate efforts and actions of the government organisations
with the non-government organisations with similar objectives;
• create a minimum structure in the schools: the European Clubs;
• train teachers who will act as multipliers in their respective
• produce suitable teaching materials;
• mobilise teachers, pupils/students, authorities, parents, local
• organise and support activities with the same aim of enhancing the European Dimension in education such as 'Europe at School'- European School's Day Competition' which every year reaches thousands of pupils and teachers in Portugal and has a really huge impact.
The European Clubs are centres set up by teachers and pupils, free to plan their own activities designed to enhance the European Dimension in education within the general conception. Margarida Belard National Co-ordinator of the Programme European Dimension in Education. Lisbon
- I teach:
1 Problems, their detection and proposals for solution
• Yesterday. Today. And tomorrow?
• The school and the community
• Ways to active life.
• Awareness of their social roles as inhabitants and members of a
2 The countries of the EC
• Information from Embassies
• Invitations to school
• Contact with foreign schools in Portugal
• National days
• Relationships with others within the Council of Europe, UN, Lome Convention.
• Contacts/debates/workshops with experts and members of
Portuguese and European Parliaments.
• Exhibition of materials
• Reception of colleagues and teachers from abroad.
3 The democratic institutions
• From the City Hall to the European Institutions
• Organisations and Treaties
Manuela Martins European Club Escola Secundaria Quelez Portugal
- To exploit the European Dimension we, the teachers, have to produce some changes in our classroom methodology. We also have our European Club. It’s a second step, a second living/working space. This club is a centre designed to dynamize activities concerning European Education and our students have joined it either as 'effective members' or friends. There are lots of students and teachers who keep on working on Europe for pleasure. They fulfil several tasks: They collect documentation and update information on the European institutions and countries and after checking information on books, booklets and magazines, they make their own wallcharts, files, crosswords, and journals: they play games on European subjects; they play cards and build puzzles; they organise cultural activities, competitions and exhibitions for the purpose of improving their knowledge of European realities; they watch videos and films on Europe lent by EC institutions and embassies.
We can't imagine a way for the youngsters to while away their leisure time at school better than working in small groups in the European Club.
Our attainment targets have to do with the desire of reinforcing among the young generations a true European spirit. By acting jointly in a spirit of solidarity we want to take part in the building of a high-quality Europe. Margarida Guimaraes Co-ordinator of the European Club of Escola Prepatoria de Caxias Portugal.
- The general objectives of the European Club of Glazed Tiles are:
- to create among their members a truly 'European spirit' to be spread by all possible means among the local community to which they belong and among other pupils, students and teachers in Europe;
- to imbue pupils and young people with a sense of responsibility as European citizens especially with regard to the safeguard of the cultural heritage:
- promoting exchanges between teachers and pupils by organising exhibitions on My country- the place where I live- Europe (drawings paintings and photographs accompanied by an historical/artistic review.
- circulating details in Europe of the history and the techniques of glazed tiles.
- setting up a national and international network of European Clubs interested in this subject.
- drawing parents and members of the local community to the school by involving them in a highly concrete activity and focusing their attention on the European area and consequently, the interesting problems facing Europe today.
Preparatory and Secondary School 'Andre de Resende" Evora Portugal
- My name is Guido di Blasi and I am a foreigner who has spent all his life in Germany. I was born in Bonn and I am going to Agust-Macke-Schule. In my life I've met a lot of German and other foreign children. There have never been any problems about my nationality.
My father is an Italian and my mother was born in Czechoslovakia. I am Italian. It is sad to see that Germany has such a bad reputation concerning the racism. But there is racism all over the world. In my opinion in Germany and especially in Bonn there are many multicultural meetings. At these occasions thousands of people come together and have big parties. Almost a third of these people are foreigners, but all the people get along without any problem. Germany tries to support understanding between Germans and foreigners. Especially in our school -August-Macke-Schule- there are many activities in favour of a better understanding of different cultures e.g. the European Club established by our teacher Mrs Mehle. We have built up also different relationships with other countries at our school. For example, with Namibia (Africa) and Italy. What I want to say is that Germany is a country that does accept foreigners and strangers because it has learned from its history.
Guido di Blasi -August-Macke-Schule
- What is Q-Basic?
So I learned the keywords and especially the way to programme by looking at the examples in the books.
I just put the keyword in connected it with others and waited what would happen. Then I tried a lot of other things until I got little programs. I think this is the best way to learn it.
Its important that you are patient because it never works like you want it. You should also have some mathematical knowledge because it is needed from time to time.
May be that someone got interested in programming now, because it is fun and has a big future. Peter Woiteck (14) Kooperative Gesamtschule Erfurt
- On 9 May 1994 a group of 24 Dutch pupils from Kiemveld school, Den Dungen, joined us for the weekend. Together with our friends from Dynamix we planned a special co-operative day with the emphasis on European partnership. The aims of the day were as follows.
1 to integrate Dutch and English children
2 to experience a valuable process with a visible end result
3 to have a new and exciting experience learning new skills
4 to make all activities safe.
The teachers also had to co-operate and learn new skills. Mr Korsten had to stand in the middle of the club jugglers and have a pencil knocked out of his mouth by the clubs! Mr Lee had to learn how to walk barefoot across a path of broken glass. I think he was allowed to practice during the lunchtime so that when he did it he didn't hurt his feet. Ben, Heidi, James, Tracey, James, and Laura (all 11 years of age) Portishead Primary School Bristol
- We celebrated Europe Day on Monday May 9th. We had a display of paintings and pictures from all our friends in our Eurobus schools.- Northern Ireland, England, Portugal, Cyprus and Finland and from our friends in the Czech Republic. In the afternoon our Mums and Dads came to join in the fun. Our class had a quiz which was so hard no-one got all the answers right! Some children did folk dancing, while the Nursery Class learned 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' in Finnish. In Class 2 the Mums and Dads painted pictures of the children for our art exhibition.
Some of the Mums made Welsh cakes and scones in the staff-room for visitors. Class 3 had passports in their class and everyone had to pass passport control. We listened to music and songs from all the other countries, and we finished off the day with a laugh, watching the teachers do folk dancing! We all had a lovely day and look forward to Europe Day next year. Class 6 Blaengwawr Primary School Wales.
- Our European Club is a place of fun where the students usually meet to learn more about Europe. Each member can choose his/her activity, playing and producing games about Europe, writing leaflets or letters to other European schools, reading and writing stories based on Portuguese tales and legends, painting wall charts, getting information to use on different activities, watching videos, singing and learning how to be European...... And participating in the Euro-Link of course!
Sometimes our Club receives European visitors and it is very funny to meet other people and speak English or French! And every year we make the arrangements and prepare a great feast to celebrate Europe!
Pedro Picarra Jose Maria M Ferreira 6B Club Europeu esc. prep. de Caxais Portugal
Although the inernet was in its infancy when the above comments were made, British and Portuguese children in the Eurpean Club were exchanging faxes about common issues of sustainability in their community, such as drug abuse, vandalism, loss of wildlife and energy conservation. They were also sharing action plans to make improvements. Alas, the European Club movement is no more and all the simmering and boiling for the past four decades regarding root and branch changes in the curricula has produced nothing but froth. The world’s education systems designed for the mass production of specialists to serve mass production continues to ‘educate’ children for living in a world that has gone for ever.