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ESCI and ISSN Training: `From Urgency to Agency'


Activities used in the online training, credit Bianca Peel


On September 26th, 2022 the Muinin Catalyst Sustainable STEAM (MCSS) team had the opportunity to deliver an online training workshop through the Education Support Centres Ireland and Irish Schools Sustainability Network. This workshop was entitled ‘From Urgency to Agency - Supporting Young People’s Passion, Purpose and Practice.’


Educators experienced hands-on activities using our free, project-based STEAM resources for engagement with climate change and civic engagement. The session briefly addressed our natural tendency for security and its impact on action. Integrated exercises in the workshop focused on helping young people shift from the weight of individual responsibility to collective action, helping students manage climate concerns more effectively.


Eco-anxiety Module

Through this workshop, we focused on introducing concepts developed in our new Eco-Anxiety module, which emerged from the findings of our prior research CoDesRes, in which 91% of our learners’ cohort reported


  • The didn’t think they had a future

  • They weren’t talking to their friends about it and conscious and able to articulate they were using denial as a coping mechanism and

  • Their perception was they new more than their parents / teachers about climate change and that the adults / leaders were doing nothing anyway

McKeown et al 2022


These findings emerged pre-covid and showed a clear need to support learners in gaining knowledge about eco-anxiety and how to manage it based on our prior research.


Based on the self-reported needs of the learners, from our prior research we developed an outline based on our earlier lessons on this subject and what areas the module needed to address. We then commissioned Bianca Peel from Bianca Peel Consultancy & Education who is a purpose-based and empathy-driven Learning Designer and Holistic Creative Therapist with specialist expertise in with social emotional learning, STEAM and 21st Century learning, to create a module to our specifications on Eco-Anxiety.


What is Eco-anxiety?


Eco-anxiety (short for ecological anxiety and also known as eco-distress or climate-anxiety), is the distress caused by climate change where people are becoming anxious about their future. Through this module, learners develop an awareness of and an understanding of what it is, the personal, communal and international effects and ways of empowering self and others experiencing eco-anxiety.


Mentimeter Poll


We first facilitated a short Mentimeter poll to gather their ideas of what ecoanxiety means to them, if they are aware of ecoanxiety in their classroom and what ecoanxiety looks like in their classroom.

Overall, the educators defined eco-anxiety as overwhelm, worry, fear of what the future holds, and concern for the future (particularly concern for the youth and their future). There was an equal split as to if the educators were aware of ecoanxiety in their classroom with half of the participants saying they are aware of ecoanxiety in their classroom.


When asked how eco-anxiety presents itself in the classroom, educators pointed to their learners’ behaviours and feelings such as:

  • confusion

  • frustration

  • negative emotions such as anger at previous generations

  • denial

  • apathy

  • focusing on small actions (e.g. being upset when seeing someone wasting paper)

  • attacking certain groups without the knowledge of what those groups are doing to combat climate change

Workshop Activities

From there, we introduced two activities from lesson 7 and 8 in our Eco-Anxiety module. The first activity explored the circles of control: control, influence and acceptance (no control). With this, we explored why young people might feel anxious and worked on placing these concerns into the circles of control to begin to understand which concerns we might be able to change, and which ones we are not able to.


The second activity we introduced encourages learners to explore empathy through choosing a category of people (e.g. young people, climate refugees, elderly, etc.) and brainstorming the emotional, physical and psychological effects that climate change may have on these groups. They then explored how individuals in the groups can build resilience against eco-anxiety.


After each activity, we discussed how the educators felt during the activity, what they took away from the activity and if they could see this fitting into their class. One teacher shared they breathed a sigh of relief as the first activity helped with managing the overwhelm at the scale of the problem. Feedback was generally positive, the attendees reported that they liked that the activities were practical, easy to fit into their classes and that they would use them, with a number signing up to our platform afterwards.


Final Thoughts

The climate crisis and the associated changes it ushers is undoubtedly a source of significant anxiety for learners, and carries a psychological toll. This will increase as climate crisis events such as the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, rising global temperatures, sea-level rise threatens coastal communities with flooding and erosion, while biodiversity loss disrupts ecosystems and has far-reaching consequences. Basic needs, that to date, have mostly been met as part of normal life will be impacted through food insecurity, water scarcity or flooding, energy shortages, challenging well-being.


Further, the economic consequences of these including property damage, livelihood loss, and increased adaptation costs, will add to the overall sense of anxiety and climate grief. In the face of these challenges, it becomes imperative to address the climate crisis through mitigation and adaptation strategies, fostering a sense of collective responsibility and hope in combating this global issue and alleviating the associated anxieties. After parents, other adults in the young person and childrens’ ecosystem will have to deal with this and we will need training and support.


Our suite of programmes, sitting under the banner of www.muinincatalyst.com Muinín (Irish for ‘Trust’) Catalyst (increases reaction and change of state). Our resources and associated CPD aim to build capacity through the competencies and confidence that develops from the process the resources encourage, all our users will not only have trust in their ability to manage change, but that they will also ‘ease the anxiety’ around the adaptation and changes we must make. We believe that providing both young people and educators with these tools will encourage the change needed for the future.


Follow our social media for more CPD opportunities as they arise.


The Future is Now.

It is time to prepare today's students for today’s world.


Please get in contact at rebecca.white@ucd.ie if you are interested in using our resources with your learners.


Muinín Catalyst Sustainable STEAM uses a transdisciplinary, STEAM-based pedagogical approach. Returning to SDG 4, Target 4.7, one of the core missions of the Muinín Catalyst Sustainable STEAM programme is to ensure an arts / design and culture-led approach to learning that is transdisciplinary and transformative. Learning that supports the development of informed citizens, that are systemic, critical and creative thinkers who can apply their knowledge in agile ways that are sensitive, generative and appropriately responsive to context, in relevant and meaningful ways.


This is done through placed-based learning, which enables individuals to experience learning in local, real-life scenarios. Place-based approaches to learning grounded in local communities and contexts are relevant, engaging and inquiry-based. Students gain confidence and competence in affecting change, learning to manage risk, and develop creative, real-world solutions that are eco-socially just and restorative.


References


Mckeown, A., Hunt, L., Murphy, J., Turner, E., and White, R. (2022). Co-designing for resilience in rural development through peer-to-peer learning networks and STEAM place-based learning interventions. Environmental Protection Agency Research 409. Available at https://www.epa.ie/publications/research/socio-economics/research-409-co-designing-for-resilience-in-rural-development-through-peer-to-peer-learning-networks-and-steam-place-based-learning-interventions.php


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