From melting ice caps and raging wild fires, to plastic waste and air pollution, the world around us is increasingly under threat. But as global catastrophes continue to grab headlines, the study of environmental science is stepping up. What can this relatively new subject teach us, and how are schools harnessing the field to make positive change – both for students and the planet?
Drawing on biology, chemistry, physics, geography and the social sciences, today’s environmental science students have been labelled ‘the last generation that can put an end to climate change’ by former secretary general for the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon. Universities are working together to devise ingenious new ways to fight climate change, and with a number of coalitions in action across institutions, environmental science is firmly at the forefront of a more sustainable future.
It’s not just the higher education sector that’s realising the importance of environmental science as a discipline. Although the subject itself may not be taught widely at primary schools, children of all ages are benefitting from an increased focus on the natural world.
Howe Dell Primary in Hatfield is one such school, where bringing the outside in has had a transformative effect on its students. Powered by solar panels and a wind turbine, with a sedum roof and toilets that flush with rainwater, the eco-friendly design has created a living, breathing building. Children learn about sustainability through the architecture around them, and can connect with nature in the various wetlands and outdoor learning spaces on site. With attendance and academic results soaring, head teacher Debra Massey attributes the children’s increased motivation to the unique learning environment they share.
There are a number of studies that support Massey’s theories. Plants in classrooms have been shown to improve results in spelling, maths and science by up to 14%, while ample natural light can increase test scores by 20-26%. From reducing stress to boosting concentration, bringing the natural world into our learning environment positively impacts students’ academic achievements and their behaviour – while at the same time instilling a vital understanding of sustainability for the future.
To find out more about environmental science as a subject – and where a career in the field can lead – head over to this month’s blog post. Or read our interview with environmental science tutor Vasiliki to see how you can ensure sustainability starts at home.