Natural science needs to think sustainably

Picture of children in school.
The project was run to strengthen the  knowledge of the UN’s 17 sustainability development goals.
In 2018, natural science student teachers had to think about the curriculum from a sustainable perspective. At VIA’s teacher training educational programmes in Aarhus and Silkeborg, a pilot project was run to strengthen the students’ knowledge of the UN’s 17 sustainability development goals.

The project is to equip students to teach both the sustainability development goals and sustainability in primary school, so that students of the future can help to create a more sustainable society. And that LB Fonden (a Danish foundation that supports charitable goals) has chosen to support the project with 200,000 Danish kroner can be felt, says associate professor Mette Hesselholt Hansen, who teaches biology and is one of the three people behind the project.

“We can make the project more solid and strengthen the didactic innovation in natural science. Sustainable development begins with the students,” she states.

The smallest classes are to be included

On the teacher training educational programme in Silkeborg, three students see eye to eye regarding the importance of teaching in sustainability. Seyma Kellegøz, Sofie Lund and Lotte Tarpgård Olsen all agree that the theme needs to part of primary school and the earlier, the better.

“Teaching sustainability needs to start in childhood if it’s to work. It needs to be a continuous element,” emphasises Lotte Tarpgård Olsen.

“There should be an entire day for collecting waste, sorting and learning about recycling at a waste service station. You might as well teach children about it from the get-go,” suggests Seyma Kellegøz.

Both she and Sofie Lund believe that it is also – to a great extent – a matter of upbringing, if children are to think sustainably in everyday life.

A need for an educational programme in sustainability

Before the project began, Mette Hesselholt Hansen and senior associate professor Martin Krabbe Silassen carried out a nationwide survey that showed that students believed they knew more about sustainability than they actually did.

“It’s a negative if, after graduation, student teachers present the wrong picture of sustainability and the sustainability development goals to pupils. Therefore, we saw a clear need for more teaching in the area,” says Mette Hesselholt Hansen, who does not hide the fact that the subject and, in particular, the planet’s biodiversity weigh heavily on her mind.

In the end, the teaching should instil a greater desire to create a sustainable future. And that is what the students hope to get out of the teaching, too.

“The discussion on sustainability, for example, needs to be part of the natural science subject. That way you can create more focus – and hopefully more innovation – in the field,” explains Sofie Lund.

Sustainability development goals 14 (life below water) and 15 (life on land) are a particular focus of Mette Hesselholt Hansen’s teaching in connection with sustainability development goal 12 (responsible consumption and production). The project tries to strengthen teaching in sustainability and, therefore, works with sustainability development goal four on Quality Education in general.

The project, which has been running in 2018, will continue until 2020. Spearheading the project are Mette Hesselholt Hansen, associate professor Søren Witzel Clausen and associate professor Keld Conradsen, who will all gives talks on the project at the “Big Bang” science conference for teachers in April.