Education for sustainable development not only has the potential to promote environmental awareness in primary children, but can boost literacy and responsible behaviour.
A project at Welford primary school, Birmingham, demonstrates how cross-curricular and far-reaching education for sustainable development can be. Welford primary joined a campaign to develop a large, long-neglected community park in the area. The project went beyond the scope of a local activity and connected the school with others around the world.
As well as developing skills in enquiry and critical reflection, communication, participation and action, all of which are part of learning about sustainability, pupils gained literacy competencies through campaigning locally and nationally for sustainable development. Their campaigning activites included writing letters protesting against plans to build a new housing development on nearby allotments, and producing leaflets and poters urging people to value their park. In the process, they have also learned about active citizenship.
Oracy skills were further developed during the campaign through the children's experience of being interviewed by the press, speaking at public meetings and conferences and sharing work with other schools in their area, as well as with schools throughout the UK and abroad in Greece and Gambia.
The project has shown that children's literacy skills improve when they are given a real purpose for reading and writing.
Conversely, their ability to take an active role is enhanced when they have the necessary literacy skills and articulacy.
Living Today with Tomorrow in Mind: A local and global approach to sustainability by Maxine Howell (e-mail: maxine. howell@welford. bham.sch.uk) appears in Raising Achievement in Geography. Occasional Paper No, 1 2000. Price pound;7, available from the editor, tel: 020 8858 5685.