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The Broader picture

Schools play a major role in the education of tomorrow's consumers and decision makers. Involving your pupils in reducing the amount of waste produced by your school can give them a broader perspective and start them thinking about their wider responsibilities to both society and the environment.

Broadening the curriculum

  • Waste education can provide a way of linking National Curriculum subjects in a cross-curricular way. It provides a context for pupils to acquire, develop and apply a broad range of knowledge, understanding and skills.
  • Taking action on waste can be an excellent way of ensuring that your Citizenship teaching isn't just something delivered in the classroom but goes beyond this so that the life of the school actually impacts on the wider community.
  • Waste education prepares pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life. The waste management industry can provide a context for children to learn about the world of work.
  • Waste education also has clear links to the Healthy Schools Programme, particularly where this relates to healthy eating.
  • Waste education can provide opportunities for fieldwork e.g. a visit to a local landfill site or recycling facility.
  • Waste education can also provide opportunities for pupils to listen to others, express and justify points of view, make informed choices between alternatives, work collaboratively; and think critically.
  • Learning about waste and sustainable resource use relates closely to the broader area of Education for Sustainable Development. See the bottom of this page for more information.

Involving Pupils

  • Waste education requires pupils to relate their learning to their everyday life, both at school and at home.
  • Waste education can empower pupils by getting them to make suggestions about and implement ways in which school waste can be minimised. It is a means by which pupils can become involved in the whole management of their school and its buildings.
  • Taking action on waste can be an excellent starting point or project for a school council.

Involving the Whole School

  • Waste education is not just about the curriculum. It is also about how the school is run. Taking effective action on waste requires pupils, teachers, school managers and caretakers to work together across different year groups, departments and areas of the school.
  • Waste education makes an excellent starting point for a wider examination of the environmental performance of the school. From waste, schools can go on to look at their use of water and energy, the design of their school buildings, and the entire way in which their school is managed. These can then lead to the development of an environmental policy for the entire school.
  • Waste education requires schools to reconsider their purchasing practices in order to take the environmental impact of these into account. This can then lead on to a broader consideration of ethical purchasing.

Beyond the school gates

  • Waste education can be an excellent way of linking home and school.
  • Work on waste can involve both your pupils and the wider community, for example by schools setting up a recycling facility on their premises. It can lead to involvement with the wider public, local councillors and politicians. It can be an excellent way of working with outside organisations and agencies.
  • Work on waste can provide an opportunity for schools to work together, either within an area, in different parts of the U.K. or between two different countries or continents.
  • Action on waste is a way to enhance the profile of the school in the eyes of the local community and can also lead to links with businesses and community organisations.

Waste & education for sustainable development

Learning about waste and sustainable resource use relates closely to the broader area of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). This is not a new subject but an approach to the whole curriculum and management of a school and has its roots in both environmental education and development education.

ESD is based around seven fundamental concepts, all of which can be considered by looking at the issue of waste.

  • Interdependence
    Learning about waste can be used to develop an understanding of the way in which the products that we consume affect other people. This could be at a relatively local level (e.g. by requiring landfill sites and incinerators to be placed near other people's homes) or more global (e.g. in terms of the damage caused by mining, deforestation or other resource exploitation).
  • Citizenship and stewardship
    Learning about waste develops an understanding of the responsibility that we all have as citizens to ensure that our own lifestyles do not adversely impinge upon the rights of others, both locally and further afield.
  • Needs and rights of future generations
    Through waste education, our current levels of resource use can be set against the needs and rights of future generations. The degree to which our currently preferred methods of dealing with waste will still be a practical proposition in the future can also be considered.
  • Diversity
    The different attitudes to resource use in different parts of society and different parts of the world can be considered through waste education.
  • Quality of life
    The significance of waste disposal for people's lives can be considered, for example by looking at the way in which proximity to landfill sites and incinerators might affect the lives of those who live nearby.
  • Sustainable change
    Waste education is an ideal way of developing understanding that there is a limit to the way in which the world, particularly the richer countries, can develop and that the consequences of unmanaged and unsustainable growth are increased poverty, hardship and the degradation of the environment, to the disadvantage of us all
  • Uncertainty and precaution
    The long term and sometimes unforeseen impacts of waste products can be considered in order to demonstrate the requirement for a cautious approach when making decisions that affect the future welfare of both society and the Earth.

This can only be a very brief survey of the place of waste education within Education for Sustainable Development. For more information and further resources on the subject visit the ESD related sites listed on the Waste on the Web page of this site. Of these, the ESD in the National Curriculum site is particularly comprehensive.

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