Developing Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as a cross-curricular theme, as requested by the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), does not merely involve finding environmentally-related topics and inserting them in syllabuses that can accommodate them.
This line of thinking tends to relegate ESD solely to science subjects, geography and maybe social studies. Traditional misconceptions about ESD still linger and hinder its seamless integration.
ESD is essentially a methodology that equips learners with skills that will help them become functional citizens.
Nevertheless, changing the dominant pedagogy in schools is not an easy task as it involves a change in the mindsets of teachers, school administrators and education authorities.
Research has shown that addressing this change in the way teaching and learning is viewed is the surest way of successfully implementing ESD.
For the past 12 years, Nature Trust (Malta) has been systematically adopting a whole-institution strategy through its international ESD programme, Ekoskola. With the aim of taking the implementation of the programme to the next level, Nature Trust (Malta) has partnered with Slovakian NGO Biospektrum in an EU Erasmusplus Key Action 1 project called Catering for All.
As part of the project, educators involved in the Ekoskola programme and the management of the Xrobb l-Għaġin Nature Park and Sustainable Development Centre, accompanied by two education officers, visited Banská Bystrica in Slovakia to explore methodologies to promote the development of ESD in the curriculum and at the nature park.
The delegation was made up of Home Economics education officer Lorraine Anne Dimech Magrin, Early Years education officer Mariangela Schembri Meli, Nature Trust president Vince Attard, Paul Pace, director of the University of Malta’s Centre for Environmental Education and Research (CEER), six Ekoskola teachers and a teacher based at Xrobb l-Għaġin Nature Park.
Changing the dominant pedagogy in schools is not an easy task as it involves a change in the mindsets of teachers, school administrators and education authorities
The visit was an opportunity to share and exchange experiences in the integration of ESD in nature park management, Home Economics and across the early years sector.
Other themes explored during the visit included outdoor education as a means of integrating various dimensions of sustainability; early childhood experiences leading to sustainable choices; sustainable food consumption; non-formal ESD initiatives in the community and outdoor learning and experiences for all.
Besides visits to schools, the delegation also visited the Forest Research Institute at Zvolen and the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Matej Bel University.
The Maltese delegates and their Slovak counterparts reviewed and discussed specific examples of methodologies and technologies adopted with learners of different ages and in formal and non-formal settings.
Meetings also focused on finding ways how nature parks are promoted to attract more visitors and enhance learning by catering for their different learning needs and abilities.
During the visit, Attard and Pace met Jarmila Kmetova, dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, and Marek Drimal, head of the Department of Environmental Management at Matej Bel University to consolidate collaboration links with Nature Trust and CEER.
The entities plan to collaborate in the hosting of Slovak students at Xrobb l-Għaġin Nature Park, extending study visits to other education officers and teachers, developing ESD educational material and supporting the development of ESD training programmes.
The training visit was supported by Malta’s European Union Programmes Agency, which awarded funds under the Erasmusplus Key Action 1: Learning Mobility of Individuals programme.
A further training experience in collaboration with Biospektrum, aimed at improving organisation and management at Nature Trust Malta, is planned to be held in future.
This article was submitted by Nature Trust Malta.