By Jane Burns
Education Outreach Manager
The future is bright for green jobs with skills sets such as biofuels research, wave energy producers, solar cell technicians, next generation battery engineering, plant genomics, wind energy workers, and urban food growers to name a few jobs among the estimated 15 – 60 million green jobs that may be on the horizon.
If these jobs are part of Australia’s future workforce, how can we prioritise sustainable skills in the curriculum to engage our kids in the wonderment of learning from the natural world whilst acquiring the skills and knowledge which may secure one of these green jobs?
As Victorian schools implement the New Victorian Curriculum in 2017, the curriculum dimension of sustainability has received a boost with the release of the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority Learning about Sustainability mapping within the Victorian Curriculum F-10.
Victorian schools are referred to as amongst the most sustainable in Australia and ResourceSmart Schools has been central in this contribution to schools as well as for wider sustainability outcomes to the community. Since its inception in 1999, the program has received funding to support school sustainability activities from a range of local, state, and federal government agencies, and the Catholic education sector.
With this support, over 1200 schools have participated in the program and achieved substantive sustainability outcomes in lower carbon pollution, reduced water use, waste to landfill, and improvements in biodiversity. Schools also benefit from curriculum development, culture change, and community building.
So whilst many schools are participating in environmental education programs, are we actively creating pathways where young people have access to information about green jobs including sustainable industry development where we need to produce more with less?
Sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most frequently quoted definition is from Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report, which in October 1987, coined and defined the meaning of the term ‘sustainable development’ as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
If we consider sustainable development as a goal, the teaching of green skills is an essential pathway for young people moving into green jobs to help secure their economic future and importantly contribute to more sustainable patterns of living. Sustainability education is already ‘futures-oriented’ and focusing on secure green jobs is another aspect of informed action.
Could school-business and higher education partnerships provide opportunities for schools to create pathways to green jobs and further incorporate sustainability into teaching and learning?
Many businesses are increasingly adopting the view that sustainability can be both good for business as well as make a positive contribution to the broader society. With a growing number of roles in Sustainability Management and Environmental Advising, business is considering sustainability underpinned by cost-benefit analysis and the long-term value to the company.
An area that could be beneficial to schools and business is in campus improvements. As more and more companies pay greater attention to integrated thinking and more sustainable business models, school buildings in Australia have not received the attention and investment needed. Are there opportunities for students to genuinely work with business to ‘green’ their school buildings, whilst also generating business for business?
As well as the following key benefits to the whole school community, students would engage in critical and creative thinking, design and technology, and financial literacy, as well as building school pride.
Green buildings deliver a range of quantitative and qualitative benefits and consistently outperform non-green buildings in terms of comfort and productivity, natural light, fresh air, access to views of the outdoors, as well as control over individual workspace temperature and lighting, and increased office productivity, and improved student results on tests.
Australia’s first Green Star – Education Design primary school, Peregian Springs State School on the Sunshine Coast, is reaping the benefits of its 4 Star Green Star-rated building. It was also the first education project to achieve both Design and As Built ratings, and has attracted the highest pre-enrolment of any school in Queensland. Principal Gwen Sands says, “it is a pleasure to work in a school which has been built to the highest environmental standards. Studying and working in this facility encourages both our staff and students to act in a more sustainable manner and will help improve learning outcomes for our students.”
With teachers and students spending up to 90 per cent of their day indoors, they benefit from buildings with natural daylight, fresh air and access to views. Research indicates that green schools lead to healthier, happier teachers and students who take fewer sick days. Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits (2006) found that green schools and universities can deliver a 41.5 per cent improvement in the health of students and teachers, as well as a 15 per cent improvement in student learning and a 25 per cent improvement on test scores due to good lighting and ventilation.
There are many great resources for teaching Education for Sustainability but perhaps stronger school links to business and higher education can help to co-create pathways to green jobs, improve school facilities, and build momentum for a brighter green future.