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How Do We Ensure Learning in a Changing World?

15 August 2007

WEEC 2007This was one of the questions being posed at the 4th World Environmental Education Congress in Durban, South Africa last month.  The congress, attended by over 900 delegates from around the world, explored many different aspects of environmental education, from new learning theory, to ethics, sustainable schools, cultural change and environmental education and the WEHAB (Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture, Biodiversity) agenda. 

Fascinating keynotes from Professor William Scott (University of Bath), Prof Bjarne Bruun Jensen (Danish University of Education ) and Dr Justin Dillon (Kings College, London) brought together some of the key changes and developments in environmental education, particularly of the pedagogical and science education changes in the past 30 years, since the initial environmental education conference at Tbilisi, 1977.  Professor Scott in particular emphasised the ‘need for greater openness to new approaches, different ways of thinking and working, and a stronger research focus on understanding the relationship between sustainability, society and learning’.  He also suggested that ‘as an environmental education community, we need to reach out to other researchers and users of research, and especially to policy-makers’.

This was evident throughout the congress, with valuable combinations of presentations from practitioners in the field and researchers.  New findings from the academic community on the application and development of learning styles and techniques, provided inspirations for practitioners to move forward.  Whilst development of new networks for suitability, such as the MESA (Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability into African Universities) partnership, a collaboration with UNEP, can act as models for the rest of the world to adopt.

BGCI’s education officer, Sarah Kneebone, presented on the vital role of botanic gardens in environmental education, examining the contribution gardens can and do make to the global EE movement.  Participants at a BGCI workshop discussed the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) and how education for plant conservation can be promoted and further developed within the environmental education field.  The responses from this discussion can be found here.

The Congress programme, papers and photographs can now be downloaded from the WEEC website.  The 5th World Environmental Education Congress will be held in Montreal, Canada in 2009. 

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