Calgary Schools for Climate Action

What is the Calgary Schools for Climate Action Initiative? 

The Calgary Schools for Climate Action initiative represents an exciting and timely opportunity to engage  Calgary’s K-12 school community in local, yet globally referenced, climate education, action, and citizenship using the City’s Climate Resilience Strategy and the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 as visions and organizing frameworks. 

Primary objectives of the 2019-20 school year are to: 

  1. Develop a simple framework to enable students to identify and implement tangible school-level climate action plans that are linked to the City of Calgary’s Climate Resilience Strategy.  These student-led action plans will allow schools to: 
    • establish a baseline of school-related GHG emissions (e.g. heating, electricity use, transportation, waste, etc);
    • identify GHG reduction targets and other (e.g. educational) goals; 
    • prioritize actions to reach identified goals, and
    • track and report progress against stated targets or goals. 
  2. Engage students in the creation and promotion of this program; 
  3. Engage teachers in professional development opportunities to build their foundational knowledge of climate change and the City’s Climate Resilience Strategy and especially, show them how they are their students can be part of the climate solution.
  4. Engage school board and school administrators to garner system-wide support for the initiative. 

 

Why Should Calgary Schools Get Involved in Climate Action? 

Climate change is increasingly viewed as the most serious and pressing issue of our time, not only radically altering our environment but posing an unprecedented threat to humanity itself.  Calgarians are increasingly impacted by climate change as floods, smoke from wildfires, heat waves, and droughts become part of our everyday reality. 

In recognition of the seriousness and urgency of the rapidly escalating climate crisis, the City of Calgary’s city council unanimously adopted, in 2018, the Calgary Climate Resilience Strategy.  The Strategy includes close to 250 actions organized into broad themes and sets a target of reducing city-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. 

As some of the city’s top real estate holders, Calgary’s major school boards are uniquely positioned to implement many of these actions and help the city meet its ambitious emissions reduction target. 

 

 

What Are School Administrators, Teachers, and Students Telling Us? 

We regularly engage with school administrators, teachers, and students through workshops, presentations, forums, surveys, and focus groups.  The message we hear is very consistent: we need to do more to prepare students to deal with the complex environmental issues they will inevitably face and help create a more sustainable future. 

Teachers in Alberta express a strong desire to teach about climate change but are reluctant to do so, citing a lack of support from peers or parents, the challenge of deciphering fact from misinformation and, most importantly, concern over adding more angst to students - many of whom are already anxious or even depressed about their future.  Research shows, however, that engaging with this challenging topic - rather than avoiding it - is the best way to replace fear with curiosity and instill hope and positive attitudes in our students.  

And students tell us over and over again that our schools are generally failing to prepare them to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. 

“As youth, we are trying to improve the future for other generations. We can’t just use, use, use. Buy, buy, buy. We have to give back, and we have to make our school—and our community, and our planet—sustainable.” – Tanisha, Alberta high school student.

Our education leaders agree that we need to better equip students to create a more sustainable future.  For example, in 2016 the Alberta School Boards Association, which represents all 63 public school boards in Alberta, endorsed a resolution calling for more access to renewable energy, and every student’s right to have “an environmental education.”  Moreover, 165 school board trustees, superintendents, and other education leaders from across Alberta joined us at our November 2018 Thought Leaders’ Forum on Environmental and Energy Education and Sustainability. We heard overwhelmingly that school administrators are eager to engage teachers and students in climate solutions but are looking for guidance on how to do this.  

Teachers are also looking for guidance - earlier this year we carried out a teacher survey across the province and 97% of 130 teachers surveyed said they would be interested in including more environmental and energy content in their teaching, if given more resources and support.

The latest social science research suggests that any strategy to engage citizens in climate solutions must create opportunities for people to partake in simple, measurable, community-level, and goal-oriented actions that are carried out -  and celebrated - in a social context. Through this type of approach, despair and avoidance are replaced with team spirit, community pride, and hope for the future.  

 

Who is Involved in Calgary Schools for Climate Action? 

The Calgary Schools for Climate Action initiative is spearheaded by the Alberta Council for Environmental Education and the City of Calgary.  A multi-stakeholder working group was created in the spring 2019 and includes representation from the following organizations:

  • City of Calgary
  • Alberta Council for Environmental Education
  • Calgary Board of Education
  • Calgary Separate School Division
  • Calgary Regional Consortium
  • Calgary City Teachers’ Convention Association
  • University of Calgary

 

We're grateful to RBC for their support of this program.  We invite other organizations to support this important work -  please contact our Executive Director Gareth [at] abcee.org to discuss.

 

How Can I Get Involved?

There are at least three ways you become part of Calgary Schools for Climate Action:

  • Register your school to be one of ten pilot schools to help us test our proposed framework and resources during the 2019-20 school year.  
  • Register for one of our upcoming climate action education teacher workshops
  • Join our working group and be directly involved in the development of this initiative.  We are particularly interested in adding administrator, teacher, student, and Indigenous perspectives. 

To learn more or to express an interest, please contact Marie Tremblay at marie@abcee.org

 

“Schools should prepare us for the future, not the past. The future of the world will be built on sustainability. If we learn what sustainable technologies are available when we are in school, we will be able to help shape the future of global sustainability when we graduate.” 

- Quinn, student at Jasper Place high school in Edmonton