A portable solar suitcase with a battery and solar panel, eco bricks, electricity from seawater, and 3D printed coral reefs… these are just a few of the innovative solutions imagined and implemented by teachers and learners through the Climate Action Project.
Belgian IT teacher, Koen Timmers, created the Climate Action Project in 2017. He envisioned it as a useful resource to help teachers incorporate climate change into their lesson plans. He didn’t expect it to become a global movement in just five years.
The project is helping to transform education and support teachers by creating a space for climate change and sustainable lifestyles in the curriculum. It also promotes a global outlook by encouraging dialogue and collaboration between learners in different countries.
Today, over 10 million learners from 107 countries have taken part in the six-week online course which has been endorsed by world-renowned conservationist Dr Jane Goodall, Amnesty International, Microsoft, WWF, NASA, UNESCO, the UN Environment Programme, and ministries of education across 16 countries.
Transformative teaching encourages learners to take action
“Climate change is something that’s affecting everyone, everywhere. I created the project so that students and teachers from all over the world could talk about this issue, learn from each other, and take action,” says Koen. And that, he believes, is the key to the project’s success.
“You can learn by reading a textbook, you can learn from a teacher, you can learn from a newspaper. But in all of those cases, you really only have one side of the story,” says Koen. “But when you are able to speak to someone living on another continent, and you realise you share passions (like football and sustainability), you build a relationship with them.”
Using technology to transform and expand teaching platforms
Koen’s passion has always been to help transform the field of education. “I wanted to work with people. I really love explaining stuff, and I wanted to do something that was relevant in society, so I became a teacher.”
Since 2016, Koen has been involved in helping to set up and equip a learning centre in the Kakuma refugee camp. Through the facility, over 420 teachers from 75 countries around the world offer online lessons to the learners in the refugee camp.
“Through these classes, learners from different countries are able to have meaningful conversations with the learners at Kakuma,” says Koen. “It helps all of the learners develop a global outlook and break down stereotypes.”
It is this online interaction between learners from around the world that inspired Koen’s Climate Action Project.
Supporting the SDGs through the Climate Action Project
As well as being a useful teaching resource, Koen’s vision for the Climate Action Project was to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by giving teachers and learners a platform to help create positive change in the world.
“I wanted to make a way for students from all across the world to connect with each other, to share how climate change is affecting them, and to be empowered to create solutions.”
“I think what surprised me the most about the Climate Action Project is how different the stories are,” says Koen.
Participants in Ireland convinced the government to create a new logo for recyclable plastics while learners in India built a solar-powered car. In Malawi, students planted 60 million trees, in the US they built a portable solar-powered battery pack in a suitcase, and in Indonesia they developed their own ecobricks.
Koen and his partners also developed the EarthProject app which allows users to track their climate-friendly behaviour, such as avoiding red meat, buying a refurbished phone, and ride-sharing. It adds up the amount of carbon saved through these actions.
The app proves that incorporating something like the Climate Action Project into lessons is one of the ways we can transform education and achieve the SDGs.
“Students are not only learning about climate change. They are taking action, and coming up with sustainable solutions.”
Prioritising teachers and learners is key to transforming education
While Koen supports the use of technology as a teaching resource, he believes that nothing is more effective than a passionate, skilled teacher.
“We need to increase teacher salaries so that we can get the very best teachers back into the classroom. To be a successful person you have to know how to solve problems, filter fake news, and build relationships with people who are different to you. That’s how teachers can help their students build a global outlook. And that, in my opinion, is the future of education.”
● To join the Climate Action Project for free, register here: https://www.climate-action.info/user/register
● The Climate Action Project is supported through Koen’s non-profit organisation, Take Action Global.
Learn more about the #TeachersTransform campaign as part of the Transforming Education Summit.
Photo credit: Koen Timmers