Students on Sustainability helps add environment to elementary education

Students on Sustainability Photo-cropped.jpg

Students on Sustainability

Students on Sustainability is a group of university students in Calgary working on bringing more environmental education to Alberta classrooms.

Growing up in Calgary and going through the public school system, the group’s founder Patrick Duke felt as though he had received a quality education, but found climate change wasn’t thoroughly included in his schooling. Even when it was, he said, it wasn’t multidisciplinary, it was often rushed, and was usually only offered within a higher level science course.

“Your grades should not hold you back from this kind of education,” said Duke, “from being aware and being environmentally conscious.”

Environmental education shouldn’t be something only for some students. Duke sees climate change as a topic that should be “for everyone – in science, the humanities and option classes throughout a student’s education.”

In his own education, Duke saw the effects of learning more about climate change in his first year of university. Duke enrolled in the petroleum geology program, “because my parents, my neighbors, and my friends all worked in oil and gas.” But when he started learning more about climate change in one of his first-year courses, he changed programs.

Climate change is happening and it is something students need to be informed about so that they can think about it when picking a career for the future.
— Patrick Duke

“Climate change is happening and it is something students need to be informed about, so that they can think about it when picking a career for the future,” he said.

With Students on Sustainability, Duke hopes their lessons will “open up perspectives and career choices that a student wouldn't think of otherwise as an option.”

Duke founded Students on Sustainability in December of 2017, and started to collaborate with education groups to generate content that meets the regular requirements of Alberta lesson plans, but with a slight spin on sustainability. By the end of January the group had 28 volunteers trained to give curriculum-based lessons across Calgary, and hopes to soon expand their reach across the province.

One group Students on Sustainability works with is the Alberta Council on Environmental Education (ACEE), which helps connect students to its network of teachers. From February to June last year, Students on Sustainability delivered a total of 35 school presentations and participated in several events, reaching some 1,500 kids in their first few months of outreach.

Students on Sustainability allows for younger students to learn about sustainability from a university student who is engaged and passionate about what they are doing. Duke said that this dynamic is key to their success.

“It’s impactful,” he said. “The students often look up and connect to the university students. Having that different perspective in the classroom is great.”

Learn more about Students on Sustainability, here.

For more information on environmental education in Alberta, see our resources page.

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