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Continued Commitment for Education and Climate Action in Bronte

Despite the difficult situation related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the activities of the Giacche Verdi Bronte do not stop. Some of them are carried out in person with limited attendance due to anti-pandemic regulations, while others are carried out remotely through webinars and online meetings. Between the end of April and May 2021, among the many activities promoted, we had two important meetings with two schools in Bronte.

Further Information

The first meeting took place on 30 April 2021 with the Benedetto Radice High School. We were invited by the headmistress, the teachers and the students to talk about the environmental enhancement of the area around Bronte  during the school assembly and therefore with representatives of all classes (aged between 14 and 18). Andrea Aidala of the GVB staff showed through a power point presentation the main naturalistic places in our territory, focusing on the theme of the Simeto and Alcantara river valleys as a UNESCO MaB area called “Terre della Biosfera” and on the numerous projects promoted over the years in synergy with the Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung Foundation, including “Boschi per la Biosfera”, within the BMU’s EUKI programme. The students asked many questions and showed great interest in the topics proposed, with the hope of soon being able to visit the places described during the presentation of both the GVB and CAI Bronte, present with Angelo Spitaleri.

The second meeting took place on 19 May 2021 in attendance, at the L.Castiglione Middle School. In 2018-19, the Giacche Verdi Bronte, thanks to the “Frutti per la Biosfera” project (also in synergy with the MHS within the EUKI programme) transformed a disused area of the school into a wonderful educational vegetable garden. Two years later, the garden is still a fantastic reality and it was possible to organise a planting day in cooperation with the school. International GVB volunteers Alessia Doering and Lilly Kai, in this case supported by students from the Istituto Agrario di Bronte, guided the school children (aged between 10 and 12) in planting various vegetables and local herbs, forming three different groups. Other stations organised by the GV included: a herbarium “station”, where volunteer Rebekka Fackler showed the main Sicilian wild flowers useful for the survival of bees; and an insect house “station”, where volunteer Karla Fischer built an insect house with the students and explained the importance of safeguarding pollinating insects. At the beginning and end of the meeting Andrea Aidala interacted with the students, talking about the importance of bees and inviting them to become activists of the “save bees and farmers” initiative by getting parents and relatives to sign up. The Mayor of Bronte Sen. Firrarello, accompanied by Councillor Capace, also visited the school during the activities, and they expressed their appreciation for the activities, congratulating the School Director and the organisers of the day.

Three4Climate Position Paper: Including the ‘whole school approach’ and SDG’s into everyday school life

Integrating climate action in teaching

Regarding the incorporation of climate action content in the curricula, the participants from the trio countries report that these topics are already embedded in most curricula, but proper integration of ESD in detail is still missing. The teachers claim that reflection on specific themes can only take place superficially due to lack of time. The integration of climate action topics in teaching thus depends heavily on the teacher’s awareness and the personal attitude towards the general problem of climate change. The participants also expressed the need to increase knowledge on ESD and SDG’s among colleagues.

According to the teachers, the concept of ESD and the ‘whole school approach’ should be the aim for every school. It should not be limited to a voluntary basis, but obligatory for all schools. Yet, possibilities for a holistic approach for schools exist via diverse programmes and present legislation. The UNESCO school programme as well as the Eco-Schools programme provide support and guidance for schools across the globe. In the Three4Climate countries, there is for instance the ITS approach in Slovenia, which foresees a cross-curricular link to address a specific topic, like climate action. In Germany the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU) provides learning material for teachers with the programme “Environment in the classroom”.

Main barriers

The most relevant barriers from teachers’ perspective to integrate ESD topics into teaching refer to the lack of ESD-related requirements in national learning objectives, the fragmentation of curricula without a holistic approach to include ESD in all subjects, and the allotted time in existing curricula, which does not take ESD aspects sufficiently into account. Additionally, the communication from state or national level on specific legislation and policies to promote ESD in schools could be improved. The teachers agree that ESD should be embedded in the overall national policy of the respective Ministry of Education. Thus, according to the participants, the main areas of improvement refer to national programmes and plans to integrate ESD in teaching and school activities, to increasing the capacity of teachers, and to providing respective guidance and support to schools. These improvements should occur in a coordinated national approach.

Solutions and demands

The solution proposed by the participants would designate teachers for the inclusion of ESD in each school. This should be organised by the schools themselves or groups of schools and funded by regional/national level programmes. Similarly, it is important to establish incentives in terms of payment for extra work and reducing standard teaching hours to free up time for interdisciplinary project work on climate action and sustainability topics. Further training and guidance for teachers on didactic methods and the provision of learning material for all ages with emphasis on ESD is necessary. More time should also be allocated to these topics to better include them into school life. Thus, external support and services would help increase engagement and knowhow of teachers and school staff. Ultimately, political will and additional budget are needed to overcome existing barriers and improve the ESD approach in all schools. In order to take practical action, schools would need the support of the wider society and high-level politics to build values for future, climate-friendly generations.