Today’s post is by Dr Thomas Bernard, co-founder of STEM publishing company QuestFriendz and co-author of the SuperQuesters series.  SuperQuesters: The Case of the Great Energy Robbery covers environmental themes including renewable energy and is out now.  As ever with our blogs the ideas expressed are not necessarily those of the Association.


The National Curriculum has many advantages; however, it falls short in supporting primary-aged children’s understanding of the climate and sustainability and encouraging them to think practically. Teachers are in a unique position where they have the power to influence children in many positive ways and use their personalities and experiences to affect future generations. So, despite the statutory documents, teachers of all key stages can make a real difference in children’s perceptions and outlooks, resulting in immediate differences and shaping their future selves. However, with an already jam-packed curriculum, how can educators make this happen?

Leading by example

Teachers who lead by example are some of the most effective. Demonstrating and talking to children and clarifying why they choose to do what they do can make an enormous impact. Being consistent in their actions, explaining why they are turning off the lights, composting the waste fruit and avoiding excessive printing and photocopying are just a few examples, but the school day is full of opportunities to be active in the fight against climate change. Additionally, through informal discussions, teachers can empower children to think about becoming more environmentally active with small changes they can make, including how they travel to school, dispose of things, and turn lights, computers and toys off when not in use. Praising children and reminding them, in age-appropriate ways, why their actions are so incredible will also leave a lasting positive impression.

Using Stories

Alongside this, finding and utilising high-quality picture books with environmental themes is an effective way to broach sensitive subjects. Picture books and stories have the potential to open new worlds to children that they would not otherwise know existed and immerse them in topics that encourage them to stop, think and reflect. Combining non-fiction and fiction with characters and motivations can help to build their understanding and awareness in engaging and memorable ways. 

Using the correct vocabulary

Learning about the climate comes with a whole range of new vocabulary, which may not seem appropriate for younger children. However, they have a much greater capacity for new and often longer words than we often give credit for. Sustainability, renewable energy and biomass may be a challenge for children to get their tongues around to begin with, but using the correct vocabulary and encouraging them to use it from the start will only help them to understand the concepts and build on them as they develop which inevitably will support how they approach and apply the topic as they grow.

Lastly, let us also not forget that although we may not all be teachers, we are all educators to some degree, so thinking about how we conduct ourselves and live our lives will play a crucial role in what our children do.


Dr Bernard can be contacted @questfriendz

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