Environmental education is an area of education aimed at making individuals aware of environmental problems and how to help combat them , conserving natural reserves and not polluting the environment.
This type of education represents a process used to preserve the environmental heritage and create development models, with clean and sustainable solutions. Not only from an ecological point of view, but also from political, economic, social, ethical, among others.
The concept of environmental education began to be defined from the Belgrade Conference in 1975, when the iconic “Belgrade Charter” was created. This document is seen as an important historical milestone in the fight to defend the environment.
The Belgrade Charter contains all the guiding and regulating principles for how educators should address issues related to the environment in the most diverse disciplines.
Environmental education is essential to guarantee the sustainable development of society. It is the engine that awakens in individuals the concern and care with the practice of activities that may cause an environmental impact, such as:
- air and river pollution,
- soil degradation;
- predatory fishing;
- the deforestation;
- the production of energy with the use of polluting fuels;
- waste disposal, etc.
Environmental education is an action that today is already present in all nations, which seek technological development without depleting the planet’s natural resources.
Environmental education aims at understanding concepts related to the environment, sustainability, preservation and conservation.
Therefore, it seeks to form conscientious and critical citizens, strengthening citizenship practices.
Allied to this, it works with the interrelationship between human beings and the environment, developing a cooperative spirit committed to the future of the planet.
Alongside its principles and objectives, the great importance of environmental education lies in the conscious action of citizens. Therefore, it aims to increase sustainable practices as well as reduce environmental damage.
Therefore, it promotes the change of behaviors considered harmful both for the environment and for society.
In the school environment, it has great importance since children learn to deal with sustainable development from an early age.
With the growth and deepening of these themes today, several undergraduate and graduate courses were created in this area of knowledge.
Environmental education in schools
People need to be aware that they are part of the environment. Protecting it is synonymous with protecting the existence of Humanity. This awareness must be individual and collective and, for it to be effective, the development of critical thinking in young people is fundamental.
The preservation of the environment depends a lot on how present and future generations act, and what they are willing to do to reduce the environmental impact of their actions.
For this reason, environmental education is extremely important and must be addressed in schools, so that all members of society develop an environmental awareness and have responsible attitudes towards the environment.
Environmental education and sustainable development
Environmental education is closely related to sustainable development. One of its main purposes is to find alternative forms of development that meet the needs of human beings, without compromising the next generations to meet their own needs.
Environmental education is the foundation for society to be able to create strategies that act in accordance with the ideals of sustainable development.
Environmental education activities
Several extracurricular activities are developed with themes related to environmental education.
In the school environment, debates, presentations and some lectures can clarify several ideas on the subject. If the school has some green space, some activities can be developed there.
In addition, and in a more practical way, students can visit places where sustainable practices are developed.
Several communities today already work independently on this concept. An example are the community gardens, created by the residents themselves and which involve environmental awareness, interaction and even the improvement of the quality of life.
Carrying out joint efforts to collect rubbish and waste in environments that suffer from this problem can be a good alternative to awaken the problem of pollution in students.
Visits to natural spaces, such as parks, orchards, can help students to reflect on the importance of natural resources and their conservation.
Another activity idea involves commemorative dates: World Water Day, Earth Day, Tree Day, World Environment Day, among others.
Close to these dates, teachers can create activities with their students. An example is a week focused on the environment.
“Environmental education for sustainability should allow education to become a vital, joyful, playful, attractive experience that creates senses and meanings, which stimulates creativity and allows redirecting the energy and rebelliousness of youth to carry out activity projects with the construction of a fairer, more tolerant, more equitable, more democratic and more participative society, in which life with quality and dignity is possible . (Summit of the Americas, 1998)”.