This month saw thousands of young people take to the streets to demand action on climate change. But the sustainability and environmental issues that so clearly motivate these young protesters are not sufficiently reflected in the curriculum they are taught at school.
Richard Dunne, The Harmony Project’s Education Lead and Headteacher of Ashley C of E Primary School in Walton-on-Thames, has responded to this by writing a Teachers’ Guide, which he hopes will help schools develop curricula inspired by Nature. This, he says, will better equip students to take on the environmental challenges threatening their future wellbeing – and the wellbeing of all life on Earth.
The Headteacher points to the recent – and ongoing – Youth Strike 4 Climate protests as evidence of a growing and vocal group of young people who care deeply about the future of our planet. He believes, “It’s time for educators and policy makers to hear the clear message from these young people and to develop for them an education that prepares them to engage with – and take the lead on – the sustainability and environmental challenges we all face.”
Richard was inspired by the ideas outlined by HRH The Prince of Wales in his book Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World. The book makes the case that not only have we become disconnected from nature, but disconnected from the way natural systems work. It goes on to explore how principles that exist in the natural world (such as interdependence, adaptation, and health) can guide us in can guide us in the way we live, individually and collectively.
Applying these principles of nature to education could help counter children’s disconnection from nature. As The Harmony Project’s Emilie Martin suggests in her article for Learning for Well-being Magazine, “children would develop a better understanding of the interconnectedness of all living things and a deeper appreciation of – and connectedness to – the natural world.” An interconnected curriculum framework could also encourage children, through ‘enquiries of learning’, to explore how “effect is linked to cause”. In practice, this means looking at the links between the ecological crises facing the planet, and the impact that the choices we make, and the actions we take, have at a local and global level. For example, understanding the link between climate change and the fossil fuel energy we use every day.
Published by The Harmony Project, Harmony: A New Way of Looking at and Learning About Our World (A Teachers’ Guide) sets out in detail exactly what a curriculum inspired by Nature could look like. It is a curriculum that Richard Dunne has developed and rolled-out alongside staff at the Surrey school over the last five years. He hopes that the Guide will provide inspiration and practical information for schools, multi-academy trusts, teachers and other educators who are looking to apply principles of Harmony to their own practice.
The publication of the book comes at a critical point for school leaders, as of September 2019, Ofsted’s new framework for inspection, which places greater emphasis on the design and delivery of the curriculum taught in schools, comes into force.
Richard Dunne added: “The new focus on intent, implementation and impact in the draft framework requires schools to consider in more detail not just what they teach, but how and why they teach it. Schools have a fantastic opportunity to create purposeful, contextualised and environmentally-aware curricula that are adapted to their students and to their geographical settings.”
The Harmony Project’s Press Release to announce the publication of the Teachers’ Guide can be viewed here.
Photograph: Richard Dunne