Ananya Chopra

The missing piece: Integrating climate justice into education

By Ananya Chopra, founder of SDGs for Children

In 2019, together with my brother Ayush Chopra, we founded SDGs for Children, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I first learned about the goals when I was 9 years old. Inspired by my school exhibition’s message to spread knowledge about the agenda, we started creating short YouTube videos on each of the 17 SDGs to address social issues such as girls’ education, the climate crisis, and bullying. Our mission is to educate and empower children to act towards a more sustainable and equitable world.  

My understanding of SDGs and a belief that unless you know them, you can’t achieve them, inspired me to form the Twitter community SDGs for Children in 2016. Since then, our platform has impacted millions of educators, parents and students across the globe to connect, create and collaborate towards sustainability. Learning to act for people and planet, published by the GEM Report and the MECCE project, highlights a pressing issue: formal education systems are failing to adequately prepare children to understand and address climate change. The report reminds us of the need for action-oriented learning, as well as a stronger focus on justice issues. These findings resonate strongly with our experiences and the initiatives we have pursued at SDGs for Children. 

Empowering youth through climate education 

Through SDGs for Children, we have been addressing these gaps by creating and sharing educational resources that focus on the social-emotional dimensions of climate change. One of our key projects is the One minute with SDGs series, where we share bite-sized information on each SDG, including climate change, making learning accessible and engaging. Student contributions are featured on the SDGs for Children website and social media, allowing participants to share their messages with a global audience. We also run interactive workshops in schools where we talk about the importance of the SDGs and how students may help achieve them. The purpose of these sessions is to provide positive and hopeful messaging while emphasizing the urgency of climate risks. This approach is in line with the report’s conclusions, which show that children prefer more climate content in classes and need more mental health resources to deal with climate anxiety​​. 

The Goals Project brings together young people from around the world to work collaboratively on projects related to the SDGs. I have been contributing to the Goals Project as one of the Student Ambassadors for the last three years. This project aligns with the report’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning and community engagement. Participants from different countries come together to share ideas, develop solutions and implement projects that address various SDGs, including on climate. The Goals Project not only helps create a global community but also helps participants understand how global issues are connected and why working together is important.  

The lack of integration of climate justice in formal education is one of the major issues mentioned in the report. Because of strict curriculum structures and standardization, the political and justice-related aspects of climate change are often neglected. We tried to include these topics in our projects and initiatives at SDGs For Children. For example, through our Human rights and climate justice project, we engage with students and educators, learning about justice dimensions together and acting as educators for our communities​​. By doing so, we ensure that students are not only aware of the environmental impacts of climate change but also understand the broader implications on society, including issues of equity and justice. The GEM Report/MECCE publication also advocates for education systems to incorporate these essential components into curricula, emphasizing the need to address climate change’s socio-economic and political implications.

Since there isn’t a formal book or curriculum on the SDGs in Canadian schools, my brother and I have authored books, such as Shaping a fairer world with human rights and SDGs, Save our planet and Know your rights OR Have no rights, that make the goals simple for children and educators.  

I also run the podcast Shaping a fairer world – Bytes with Ananya. The podcast is an attempt to connect educators, students and parents and to share their voices and unheard stories across the globe. I believe that nothing can stand in the way of the power of voices calling for change. 

Community engagement and advocacy 

SDGs for Children has also been instrumental in promoting advocacy and community engagement. The GEM Report/MECCE project publication highlights the importance of youth as ambassadors and communicators for climate science. One notable initiative is World Children Conference #WC2020, where we brought together young children to discuss global issues and share their innovative solutions. It was the collaborative effort of SDG Choupal, UN-Habitat and SDGs for Children. The conference was attended by over 1,600 participants from over 30 countries. Our efforts align with the report’s recommendation that education should motivate climate action and support the development of transformative plans through green upskilling and climate-focused research​​. 

The impact of global youth movements, such as Fridays for Future, is pivotal in expanding local and global youth engagement in climate change. Similarly, our work with SDGs for Children has contributed to a broader movement, connecting with like-minded youth organizations globally like TeachSDGs and The Road to Rights. By sharing our journey and successes on social media platforms, we inspire and collaborate with other young activists, amplifying our collective voice for climate justice​​. 

The GEM Report/MECCE project paper demonstrates how youth movements have significantly raised public awareness about climate change and pushed for more aggressive climate policies. Our organization echoes this sentiment, working to amplify the voices of young people and advocating for change at local, national, and global levels. 

Conclusion 

My journey with SDGs for Children reflects the need to address the inadequacies in formal education. Integrating justice-driven learning and engaging with our communities, we work to create a sustainable and equitable future. We call upon governments, educators and fellow youth to join us in prioritizing climate change education and empowering the next generation of global citizens. 

For more insights into our work and ongoing projects, follow me on X (Twitter) @sdgsforchildren, and @wonderananya. Together, we can make a significant impact in the fight against climate change. 

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