The results of a student-led survey suggest that teens in Alberta want to know more about climate change in school.
In the spring of 2021, the Alberta Youth Leaders for Environmental Education (AYLEE) – a group of students in grades 7 to 12 working to advance environmental education and climate action in the province – interviewed 318 young Albertans, most of whom were in elementary school. 6-12.
Over 80 percent of respondents said they believe there should be more environmental education in Alberta and 53 percent of respondents said they strongly believe the provincial government should implement more education on environment, energy and climate change in the curriculum.
Three students who were involved in creating, conducting and analyzing the poll told CBC News they were surprised by the poll’s results and hope those in positions of power take note.
“It’s encouraging to see the numbers as high as they are and it gives us a lot of hope – to have concrete proof that this is something that matters to people,” said Avry Krywolt, a 12th grade student at St. Martin de Porres. High school in Airdrie.
The recent group report on survey results calls for curriculum updates and the support of all Albertans to increase environmental education.
Worry and hope
The online survey, which was distributed in March and April via social media, clubs and school administration groups, asked questions about students’ knowledge and perspectives on climate change, the environment, the energy, economics and environmental education.
Most of the students who responded to the survey lived in Fort McMurray, Edmonton and Calgary, but others were from Lacombe, Lethbridge, Leduc, Nanton, Okotoks, Sherwood Park and Cochrane.
It is difficult to determine a margin of error for online surveys, but for the sake of comparison, AYLEE said that based on student statistics for Alberta, a probability sample with the same size d The sample of students would give a margin of error of plus or minus six per hundred, 19 times out of 20.
Seventy-three percent of those polled said they were at least somewhat concerned about the impact of climate change and only 10 percent said they did not care about their future in relation to the economy and the environment.
While the survey captured some of the students’ climate concerns, the results suggest that many are optimistic about the future. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they believe Alberta’s economy could excel while protecting the environment.
The climate and the program
When asked where they learned environmental topics, students ranked school classes third, after social media and news sources.
“I received little to no environmental education in school,” said Lauren Laplante, AYLEE member and grade 12 student at Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton.
She estimates that between science and social studies, she spent about 10 school days tackling the subject, but she thinks more time should be spent on it.
Currently, most of the learning outcomes related to energy and climate change are included in science lessons.
Subashini Thangadurai, AYLEE member and grade 10 student at Sir Winston Churchill High School in Calgary, contributed to a white paper which called for the integration of climate change education and climate action into all subjects.
Thangadurai was also part of a work group who reviewed the Kindergarten to Grade 6 preliminary curriculum and recommended more content on topics related to the environment, energy and climate.
Nicole Sparrow, press secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, said the government recognizes that the current curriculum needs to be updated to ensure students learn about climate change.
She said more than 1,300 Albertans have provided feedback on the proposed Kindergarten to Grade 6 science curriculum and that the government is committed to listening and working with environmental organizations, partners, parents and Albertans to strengthen it.
The curriculum for other years will be updated once the K-6 curriculum is completed.