17.10.2013 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Climate Change: from the classroom to the community and back

© UNESCO and Apidae Development Innovations/Adam Bumpus

On 3-4 September 2013, UNESCO, in collaboration with Apidae Development Innovations, the University of Melbourne, and co-faciliated by the Samoan Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (MESC), carried out the capacity-building phase of its SPARCK (Sharing Perceptions of Adaptation Resilience and Climate Knowledge) project. Over the two-day training, high school teachers and community members from Falease’ela worked together to find exciting and interactive ways for students to learn about the science and solutions of climate change in Samoa.

On the first day of the training teachers were provided with hands on guidance on the different tools and resources for effective climate change education including: the “Shrinking Islands Game”, “Cabinet Ministers Climate Response”, and the “Consequence Wheel for Drought”. Teachers also helped plan a “Climate Action Day” which encouraged them to come up with ways of involving students in different activities to learn about climate change; for example, designing greenhouse experiments and measuring temperature.

On the second day 15 teachers from the Apia area were taken to Falease’ela on Upolu’s southwest to work direcly with community members on climate change and education issues. The “Classroom to Community” concept is an innovative idea to improve links between what is taught in the classroom, and the climate change solutions and problems that are experienced in communities. Dr. Adam Bumpus, co-founder of the implementing partner, Apidae Development Innovations, and Assistant Professor at The University of Melbourne explained:

“Education and community climate change solutions go hand in hand. The ‘Classroom to Community’ idea was developed specifically to create this link. Community members and teachers said they learned a lot from sharing their knowledge, which is what this project is all about. These connections help build a stronger foundation to strengthen climate change education in Samoa.”

Communities and teachers identified key local systems affected by climate change and explored ways of teaching about these issues by connecting them in different ways. One idea was to create an obstacle course for planning escape routes which could be used when cyclones cause flooding. Another idea involved purifying water using local materials as a response to increased dry periods in more extreme El Niño years. The community then led teachers on a “photo tour”, taking photos of the climate change issues they felt were most important, and describing how these issues could be taught in the classroom.

Dr. Denis Chang Seng, UNESCO Specialist for Science stated:

“This innovative activity truly represents looking through the ‘eyes of the community’. Climate solutions and education can be combined in practical ways. These are important activities to ‘join the dots’ between education and practical outcomes.”

This capacity buiding training was a direct response to the need to increase education and understanding of climate change based on the priorities identified by Samoan teachers and communities in the first phase of the SPARCK project conducted in March 2013. A final report will be delivered in November 2013 with key recommendations for longer term capacity building activities involving all SPARCK stakeholders.

For more information on the project and to keep up to date, contact Dr. Denis Change Seng and Ms. Anne Meldau or join the facebook page 'Sparck Pacific Climate Change Project'.

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