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It’s not easy for teachers when students strike and urge governments to act on climate change. Depending on school policy, it can be hard for educators to know how to respond.


Encouraging students to be civically informed is a good thing, but is it right to advocate they skip class? Some teachers’ unions have publicly supported the strikes; some school boards have formally declared climate emergencies. Others may seem slow to join the discussion.

The movement may have shocked some observers, but many who have spent their careers in environmental education say the seeds were planted decades ago and it’s about time.

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“Many of us feel that we’re at a tipping point,” says Hilary Inwood, environmental and sustainability education lead at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. “Many of us have been working in the field for a long time and felt it was hard to get attention brought to the whole importance of environmental education. The climate strikes are fantastic because it’s youth standing up and saying, ‘This is what we need. We need to be doing this at all levels of education. We need to be doing this across all levels of society.’ And I feel we seem to be listening to them.”


Inwood helps run a program where pre-service teachers and teachers at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) come together and have professional development together about environmental education. OISE and the TDSB have been partners for more than a decade.

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Jessica Alba

Inwood sees many aspiring teachers eager to use environmental education as a way to teach their future students about skills like communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. These discussions, however, aren’t new to them; many participated in environmental education programs when they were in elementary and secondary school.

“We’ve had a couple of generations to plant the seeds for this work, and I feel like those seeds are starting to fully grow and take root,” says Inwood.