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Reports & guides | 25 February 2021

Youth narrative and voice: principles for effective climate, energy and environmental education in Alberta

Alberta, Canada is home to one of the world’s largest oil industries, employing a high proportion of the population. Climate change has become a very polarising political issue across the province, and we were thus commissioned to research how young people relate to the issue to identify appropriate ways of building energy and climate literacy through education.

At a critical time when the Albertan government is in the process of renewing its education curriculum from kindergarten to grade 12, here are 10 principles and suggested narratives for developing new energy and climate change education resources for Albertan students. We believe these principles and narratives also provide important learning for others working with young people.

This research was commissioned by the Alberta Council for Environmental Education (ACEE) and funded by the Government of Alberta, Calgary Foundation, Energy Efficiency Alberta and Suncor Energy Foundation.

It revealed that Albertan students are concerned about climate change but have low levels of climate literacy – often constructing false and sometimes apocalyptic narratives to fill the knowledge vacuum – and experience high levels of eco-anxiety.

Our findings and recommendations are drawn primarily from:

    • Narrative workshops with over 170 students, grades 4-12, from nine communities across Alberta. These promoted peer-to-peer dialogue grounded in participants’ identities and sense of belonging to their local community and as Albertans. Students talked about how they want climate change and energy topics to be taught, and what they want for their future. 
    • A province-wide survey of 500 Alberta youth aged 15-24
    • Interviews with Alberta teachers 
    • A literature review 

This work also builds on our previous narrative workshops with nearly 500 Albertans from a wide range of groups representing the fabric of Alberta.

An impressive call to action

The Alberta Council for Environmental Education (ACEE) has now launched an impressive call to action for advancing environmental, energy and climate education in Alberta, summarised in the infographic below. 

They have spoken with Alberta’s Minister of Education, who showed her support for this call to action in the video message below – this is very timely as the provincial government is in the process of renewing its education curriculum.

The ACEE has also been running a number of webinars, like the one recorded below, for the environmental, energy and climate change education community. Their purpose is to share the research findings and discuss next steps to implement change.

Attendees of these webinars have included public school board trustees from Fort McMurray (a city which has played a significant role in the development of the oil sands), who have since invited teachers involved in environmental education to present at their next public school board meeting. 

Our practical, evidence-based report and ACEE’s call to action have received extensive media coverage, including in the CBC: ‘Alberta students want more education on climate change, report suggests’.

It was really eye-opening to see the results of the student surveys and focus groups. I also really appreciated the clear call to action and steps that I can take as a teacher.”

ACEE webinar participant

ACEE's summary infographic

Reports & guides

Reports & guides

Alberta Narratives Project – core narratives

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