Sustainability and protecting our environment are essential for creating a future for our children, but we must also equip future generations with the skills to continue this. Sustainability relates directly to the way we live, and how our society is organised to meet the materialistic, social and emotional needs of a growing population (Noble, 2015). It relies on active participation of all citizens throughout the world, and can only occur when citizens are equipped with geographical knowledge about each societys’ place on a global scale (Gilbert & Hoepper, 2014). Combining geographic knowledge and sustainability education creates a sense of global socioecological responsibility that allows students to see the broader global impact of sustainability practices (Whitehead, 2007). Geography provides students with the required world knowledge to become active and informed citizens prepared for the challenges of a sustainable future (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2015a).
Inquiry based learning in Geography provides an opportunity for students to construct their own knowledge about the world around them. Geographic inquiry aims to channel a student’s natural inquisitiveness about the world in order to construct a deeper understanding of the connections between people and places; this creates opportunities to explore the world from various perspectives while considering what actions are required to create their desired futures (Taylor, Fahey, Kriewaldt, & Boon, 2012). Active participation in community groups develops a sense of civic mindedness that help students achieve these outcomes.
After a recent unit on the water cycle, grade one students are concerned about the increasing amount of litter polluting the school grounds and the neighbouring park and river.
The students have asked for permission to clean up the park during their lunch break, providing the springboard for an active unit on sustainability and caring for the environment. The following video will introduce the topic of sustainability to the class:
This unit aims to address key learning outcomes in the Australian Curriculum for Humanities and Social Sciences: Geography (ACARA, 2015b). The specific content descriptors for inquiry and skills, and knowledge and understanding that will be addressed in the below task are shown in the following image:
Students brainstorm ideas for a plan they can implement to clean up the local area. To guide thinking and help generate ideas, students answer questions such as: Whose responsibility is it to maintain this area? What can we do to fix the problem? Will we need anyone to help us? If so, who and in what way? How will we get others to help us? Is this type of pollution preventable? How can we look after this location in future? How does this pollution impact on our environment?
With teacher assistance, students create an ongoing community group to clean up the park. Students will write letters to the council and local community groups such as Landcare requesting assistance and advice. The Sustainability Education Officer from the local council will talk to the students about pollution and what students can do to reduce this in their community. Students will create a flyer advertising the first clean up event for the school newsletter, and a pictorial map of the river system showing the effects of pollution. Completion of this map, participation in the learning and involvement in the community group form the basis of assessment for this unit.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2015a, December 14). The Australian Curriculum: Humanities amd social sciences F-6/7 (Version 8.1), Year 1, overview. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/download/f10
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2015b, December 14). The Australian Curriculum: Humanities amd social sciences F-6/7 (Version 8.1), Year 1, all curriculum elements, all curriculum dimensions. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/download/f10
Gilbert, R., & Hoepper, B. (2014). Teaching humanities and social sciences: History, geography, economics & citizenship in the Australian curriculum (5th ed.). South Melbourne, Victoria: Cengage Learning Australia.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University. (2016). Energy-sustainability21056 [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.kpu.ca/sustainability
MocomiKids. (2013, May 8). What is sustainability? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTamnlXbgqc
Noble, K. (2015). Education for sustainability in primary school humanities and social sciences education. In N. Taylor, F. Quinn, & C. Eames (Eds.), Educating for sustainability in primary schools: Teaching for the future (pp. 135-175). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
Taylor, T., Fahey, C., Kriewaldt, J., & Boon, D. (2012). Place and time: Explorations in teaching geography and history. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Australia.
Whitehead, M. (2007). Spaces of sustainability: Geographical perspectives on the sustainable society. Oxon, UK: Routledge.