THIS FALL, I had the chance to chat with Tim Grant, co-founder and producer of Green Teacher, the magazine for green-minded educators in North America. The conversation was insightful, uplifting, and ultimately filled me with hope.
Thirty years ago, Tim Grant attended a speaking event hosted by an environmental education magazine called Green Teacher based in Wales. He was so inspired that five years later he, alongside his partner, Gail Littlejohn, started the North American branch of the organization. In the beginning, the North American Green Teacher was intimately tied with its British parent version. But, as the magazine's subscriber base rapidly grew, so did the need for a greater focus on North American education specifically. Grant and Littlejohn, both professional teachers at the time, quit their jobs and focused completely on Green Teacher.
Green Teacher provides teaching strategies to North American educators, such as how to communicate climate change issues to teens, and howto develop an inquiry-based method for learning.
In his speech-turned-book Dumbing Us Down, American John Taylor Gatto, a former school teacher who is now an education critic, said that it is "meaning, not disconnected facts" that humans seek. And yet, our education system focuses on these disconnected facts, rather than developing meaningful cognitive relationships with ideas, histories, and practices. After reading Gatto's book, I was left wondering how Canada's education system can provide more meaning--and value-driven education.
Even just the mention of Gatto's name got Grant talking: "there is no question that those who have argued against institutional education have many good points. When kids have an opportunity to follow their own interests and inquiries, they learn better."
While the importance of alternative approaches to education is well-established and has led to the reinvigoration of some movements (such as home schooling), around 95 percent of North American children are still taught in institutionalized settings. Critiques about institutional learning are valid, but they don't help the majority of sympathetic teachers caught between their desire to provide more enriching education within the institution and the need to comply with school policies and regulations.
Green Teacher is for educators, both inside and outside of schools, who want to promote environmental awareness among young people aged six to 19. This includes teachers seeking support to change the system from the inside and to introduce new ways for students to learn meaningfully about the planet.
Grant reminds us that the "beast of education moves slowly," but change is surely happening. The role of progressive educators is to push the processes as much as possible and continue to show that kids learn better when they have freedom and are motivated to improve the world around them.
As we face the real threats of environmental collapse, we need to begin educating our youth differently. I spoke with Grant about how environmental education has changed over time, and the kinds of innovations he has seen. He listed five trends in Canadian environmental education he has observed over the last 30 years.
Five trends in...