“The potential for climate education as a tool for climate action is huge”
To celebrate Earth Day, we talk to Shweta Bahri - co-founder of the education technology company Earth Warriors, which works with Theirworld to deliver climate education to rural schools in Zambia and Botswana.
About one billion people around the world will celebrate Earth Day on Saturday, April 22. They will plant trees, take part in environmental clean-ups and attend climate and nature events.
To mark Earth Day, our Spotlight On… series features Shweta Bahri, co-founder of the education technology company Earth Warriors.
Last year, Theirworld joined forces with Earth Warriors to deliver climate education to children at rural schools in Zambia and Botswana. Theirworld also has a set of teaching resources on unlocking climate action, which you can download.
Shweta is from India and has spent a decade working on education in several countries across South Asia and Africa. Here she talks about the link between climate action and education and why it’s important to reach children of all ages.
Why did you start an organisation that focuses on the link between climate action and education?
I am extremely passionate about ensuring all children get a high-quality education and am a firm believer in the pivotal role education can play in nurturing the changemakers of tomorrow. This is exactly what we do at Earth Warriors.
Education is often overlooked as a means of action. Research has shown that if just 16% of children received climate education it can reduce future carbon emissions by 19 gigatons by 2050.
So the potential for climate education as a tool for climate action is huge. In addition, it is responding directly to a demand from children to learn more about the biggest challenge of their lifetime and can also be a great way, if delivered correctly, as a means of alleviating and preventing climate anxiety.
Climate education is also critical for climate justice so that children all over the globe are equipped to deal with the climate crisis no matter where they come from.
This is why we started Earth Warriors. We want children to feel empowered and feel heard. After all, in the UK almost 50% of children feel that they are unheard when it comes to talking about climate change and over 77% are more anxious about climate change than anything else.
Why is it important to teach children of all ages about climate action?
Because it normalises the discussion, as opposed to making it one of stress. While a lot of people worry that starting young could lead to climate anxiety for kids, it’s actually the opposite if taught in a positive and empowering way.
Starting young ensures sustainable habits come as naturally to kids as brushing their teeth – and we all know changing adult behaviour is really difficult.
Children in their teenage years who are preparing to go to higher education have to be equipped with the green skills they need for a changing workforce. It gives them the foundation needed to pursue green careers.
How have the students you work with responded to Earth Warriors?
They have really embraced their role as Earth Warriors. 100% of students have reported feeling excited about their role and it has been reported by parents and teachers that they are building a strong bond with nature as a result.
Many students are also nudging their parents to adopt more sustainable habits, which has been fantastic.
How do you work with teachers to deliver Earth Warriors?
We make it simple for teachers to teach about climate change by providing them with ready-to-use lesson plans and supporting resources that they can simply implement in their classrooms. This removes the burden of lesson planning and there is minimum prep required.
We also support teachers as they implement the lessons in their classroom with any questions they have and to contextualise their lessons to their local context.
On a day-to-day basis we give teachers the flexibility to implement the lessons whenever fits best in their timetable.
Most importantly, before starting lesson implementation we train teachers on what approaches should be used to teach children of different age groups on this topic in a positive way. And we provide technical content training on the topic of climate change.
What are your hopes for the future of Earth Warriors?
Our mission is to empower two billion children to take climate action through age-appropriate climate education. We want to become the go-to provider for high-quality climate education globally.
Over the next few years we want to be able to reach all children and schools that want climate education and give them this support. We hope to build a community of teachers and students from all over the globe that can come together to find solutions to the climate crisis and instil a sense of hope for the future.
We want to partner with organisations that will help us on this mission. Our work with Theirworld is a perfect example of such a partnership.
What keeps you motivated when challenges seem too large to overcome?
Knowing that we are doing this work for the long term and our work is critical given what children are facing. Climate change is a child rights crisis and it is unacceptable that so many children feel anxious and unheard.
My key motivation is always to remember to take it one step at a time and keep an eye on our long-term mission. Change is not achieved overnight. Speaking to our current Earth Warriors and seeing their passion for our planet is my biggest motivator of all because we are overcoming challenges with every child we reach.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned outside the classroom?
Change begins with yourself and you must believe in yourself. We need to practise what we preach and that’s the best way to motivate others to do the same.
Lots of people along the way will be sceptical of what you are doing but self-confidence and self-belief are key. Just got to keep going.