Two years ago, roughly half of high school-aged Canadians did not believe that climate change could be stopped. Some of this hopelessness stems from climate education, which still revolves around causes and effects, rather than solutions.
But, can climate change be stopped without spurring the next generation to action? That is exactly what the founders of Student Education for Environmental Development (SEED) asked themselves.
The four founders of SEED, Oliver Abrams, U0 Management, Hugo Paulat, U1 Biochemistry, Cameron Kluger, U1 Environmental Science, and Felix Harpe, U1 Finance, came together out of a shared love for the environment. The SEED founders were inspired by the World Federation of United Nations Association (WFUNA) Under the Starry Sky project competition, where participants have to come up with a sustainability initiative. In an interview with The Tribune, the group described their project, which involves setting up sustainable education programs in classrooms around Montreal.
“Through our curriculum, making it hands-on, interactive, and fun, we really think that with something that seems so simple we can actually make a difference,” Abrams said.
The Under the Starry Sky program received thousands of project proposals covering a wide range of the UN’s sustainable development goals, like no poverty or zero hunger. Of these applications, only 15, including SEED, were selected for future instruction and guidance in achieving their goals.
“We get their supervision for six months, until eventually we go to Norway in September [.…] In this period, we’ll be able to do our whole implementation,” Kluger said. “Along the way, we’ll have check-ins with WFUNA every week or two weeks and we’ll just be able to continuously receive their supervision and their advice and they’ll help us along the process.”
SEED aims to educate elementary to middle school-aged students on sustainability and climate change. Currently, the program is trying to integrate itself into Montreal schools, focusing particularly on lower-income areas of the city.
“The research that we found was that those who are equipped with these tools or given these resources or educated about these ideas at a young age are more likely to be involved in sustainability when they’re older, more likely to pursue a STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] career when they’re older, more likely to create change in this sustainability field,” Abrams said.
Although Montreal is a relatively sustainable city—it has one of the best public transit systems in the world and is highly energy efficient—the team believes that sustainable education needs to be expanded in order to take advantage of this infrastructure. Although they plan to broaden their programs, SEED is beginning with a simple workshop on reducing food waste and the importance of composting.
“Even if there were these robust systems in the city such as composting […] a lot of people don’t know how to use them, or aren’t prepared to correctly compost their food because they don’t have the education to use these tools, ” Kluger said.
SEED is also working to establish an online component for the program to let students keep learning after they complete workshops.
The team may expand their membership in the near future, but for the time being are focusing on solidifying their project’s goals of bringing sustainability to underserved classrooms. As a final perk of the WFUNA program, the finalists are invited on a historic Norwegian boat, set to sail in September, stopping at several cities around the country along the way. Once they return, SEED will have even more knowledge in its repertoire to better educate students in Montreal classrooms.