Teachers and schools are well practised in helping young people develop a wide range of awareness, understanding and skills. This is, after all, their core purpose. They obviously achieve these goals through what they teach, but they also do it through how they teach, seeking effective ways of interesting, motivating and engaging young people. In addition to this, how the school is organised is important because this is also an effective way of helping young people learn key social skills and attitudes where the workings of the school mirror the values that it would like the young people to develop: for example, around inter-personal, democratic and citizenship skills, a focus on issues of care, respect and tolerance, and an encouragement of critical thinking and questioning attitudes.
Because of all this, and because of the official fixation with behaviour change as the prime social vector leading to sustainability, there has been considerable interest recently around the idea that what children learn about sustainability issues in schools can be readily transferred to parents and the wider community and bring about behaviour change. The idea that schools are key to resolving environmental issues is not new, and neither is the idea that families might be influenced as well – for example, through changing practice in the home around energy, water and waste in consumer choices around food, trade and transport, and in putting pressure on business, commerce and local authorities to change practices – and, if young people really can influence what families do, then schools are an obvious place from which to start. Whilst there is probably something in this, especially around the more straightforward issues such as energy saving, research on such processes shows that opportunities for such learning are not always straightforward.
The attached, [school-to-home-learning], summarises the position as we see it. It was developed from research carried out for the British Gas Generation Green programme, and from research done by Elsa Lee as part of the University's MA in Environmental Education degree.