What could the future of education for environmental sustainability look like?

The British Educational Research Association (BERA) has announced a research commission on education for environmental sustainability launched to coincide with COP26 the UN Climate Change Conference in 2021. In May and June 2021. This commission has been awarded to a team co-lead by Dr Elizabeth Rushton, Managing Editor of Routes. The team will host a series of workshops where young people and teachers will co-create a manifesto for education for environmental education in the UK. You can take part if you are a teacher in a UK school or a young person aged 16-18 living in the UK.  

In the workshops you will join with other young people and/or teachers to examine the current context for education for environmental sustainability, learn about alternative approaches, and develop a shared vision for the future.  The manifesto will be produced in comic and video form, with an artist joining the June workshops.  For more information and to register to take part, visit  


To invite and evoke ideas for the Manifesto the team have invited people to share different visions of education for environmental sustainability as either short pieces of writing and/or videos. The provocations will work as stimulus material for people to engage with before the workshops in May and will come from teachers, youth, practitioners and researchers.  These provocations respond to different themes including:

  • Young leaders of collective action for the climate 
  • Intergenerational conversations about the climate
  • Local and global bridges to an interconnected world
  • Perspectives from practitioners and teachers
  • Perspectives from research

The provocations will also form the basis of a special issue of Routes to be published in 2022.

Theme 1

Young leaders of collective action for the climate

  1. Advait, Aadarsh, Chiara and Elyse with Dr Jess Tipton UK Schools Sustainability Network)

Theme 2

Perspectives from practitioners and teachers

  1. ‘What is your purpose in education?’ Dr Meryl Batchelder, science teacher, Corbridge Middle School, UK

Have you ever asked yourself what your purpose is in education? You may be a teacher hoping to get excellent exam results for your students. Or, you may be a student who just wants to get the best qualifications before leaving school. But I think we all recognise that education is more than that. Its purpose, surely, is to prepare young people for the future. If that’s right, is the current education system in the UK providing everything they need? Read more here.

2. ‘Depth and breadth in education for sustainability, in and beyond the classroom’  Steve Brace, Head of Education and Outdoor Learning, Royal Geographical Society with IBG, UK

Education for sustainability is a complex issue and not something that can simply be skated over.  So I’d argue young people deserve to explore this subject through deep subject knowledge about the key building blocks of sustainability.  For example, my own subject geography teaches about topics such as resource use, climate change, ecosystems and biodiversity in a way that connects across the physical and human worlds at a range of scales from the local to the global. Read more here.

3. ‘Against the Grain’ Denise Mc Keown, science teacher based in Hong Kong

3. Paul Turner, Radical Geographer, geography teacher based in the UK

4. Maddie Stanford, Geography Teacher, ‘Schools and Environmental Justice’

Theme 3

Perspectives from research

  1. ‘Are student protests letting schools off the hook?’ Dr William Scott, Professor Emeritus, University of Bath, UK National Association for Environmental Education: Chair of Trustees

Is it time to stop hoping that the DfE will do the decent thing?  Time to bring pressure to bear on schools more directly?  The National Governance Association has opened the door to this with guidance that it issued last year and NAEE has developed this further.  We also know that some large groupings of schools, for example academy chains, want their schools to be much more active and involved. Read more here.

2. ‘Having climate conversations with children’ Grace Lockrobin, Philosophy teacher and researcher, Founder of Thinking Space

3. Dr Paul Vare, University of Gloucestershire, ‘Be clear about what you wish for.’

4. Dr Melissa Glackin, King’s College London, ‘What is the place of environmental education in schools?’

My current belief is, that EE is not a traditional ‘school subject’ like Science or History and should not strive to be,  rather it is a theme or concept that is entwined across the formal school curriculum. Just as literacy and numeracy, EE is so important for our future lives that it is essential that it becomes an implicit as well as an explicit element running across our school curriculums – both in the formal, as well as the informal, sense of the word.  Read more here.

5. Dr Claes Malmberg and Dr Anders Urbas, Högskolan i Halmstad ‘Education for environmental sustainability’

If young people only perceive individual responsibility as a choice and do not encounter democratic politics as a natural and important choice in relation to environmental sustainability, then there is a risk that they will act as solitary individuals rather than as citizens in democratic politics.  Read more here.

6.’Citizen science as a catalyst for deep inquiry and environmental activism’ Smriti Safaya, Geography & World Issues teacher at Hong Kong secondary schools, PhD researcher at the University of York

All youth and educators should have the chance to democratize and co-produce how to grasp and tackle sustainability issues. Findings from citizen science projects can be the tools for grassroots movements to push environmental concerns to the forefront of societal and political decision-making.  Read more here.

7. Prof Michael J. Reiss, UCL Institute of Education, ‘Perspectives on Sustainability’ 

Sustainability is about more than the conservation of wildlife, but I am a biologist by training and it is increasingly being appreciated how important wildlife and nature are not only for other species but for our own physical and mental well-being.  Read more here.

8. Dr Haira Gandolfi, University of Cambridge ‘Environmental challenges and social justice: what can we do about environmental justice through education?’ 

But what happens when our work ‘on the natural world’, our ‘progress’, puts different communities and populations in an unequal position in relation to environmental impact? What happens when our approaches to scientific – and sometimes even to ‘sustainable’ – development clash with equity and social justice?  Read more here.

Theme 4

Intergenerational conversations about climate

  1. Intergenerational conversations about climate, Claire Ramjam, University of Stirling, ‘A conversation about environmental citizenship’

An Advanced Higher Geography class in Scotland were asked to comment on five ‘personas’ as part of a citizen science research project. The imaginary young people were described in terms of their relationship with the environment along with some background information, such as their age or interests. The pupils were asked to give each ‘persona’ a score out of ten for environmental citizenship, with ten being the most and one the least environmental citizen they could imagine, and then to give reasons for their scores. What follows is a dramatization of their responses as if they had been discussing the personas in the classroom.  Read more here.

2. Camphill community, ‘Our Planet Earth’ poem

  Read the poem here.

Theme 5

Young leaders of collective action  for the climate

  1. Molly Hucker, Climate activist, ‘Schools as a solution to the climate crisis

Theme 6

Local/global bridges to an interconnected world

  1. Judy Ling Wong, Black Environment Network 

2. Dr Tanesha Allen, University of Oxford, ‘EDI and Sustainability’ 

However, despite the fact that climate change disproportionately impacts marginalised communities, these communities are often excluded from conversations about sustainability. Including people from marginalised backgrounds in these conversations can help ensure that their concerns and lived experiences inform the future direction of the sustainability field. Furthermore, improving diversity can prevent the sustainability field from becoming an echo chamber where the same people pose the same questions and solutions, thus impeding progress.  Read more here.