Equity in education at Cool.org means that children across Australia can have access to resources to nurture their potential and peak their interest for topics that inspire them to go beyond the classroom.
By working with sustainability industry organisations, she creates teaching resources that share the enthusiasm, passion, and knowledge of experts with schools. Students get to apply knowledge and skills to real-world situations, teachers get ready-made, easy-to-use resources, and everyone gets to work together towards a more sustainable future.
We spoke to Helen about the importance of equity in education through resource sharing distribution to support children learn and be inspired.
By ensuring students have access to resources and embedding environmental education in the curriculum, children have the ability to see environmental issues as a problem that can be tackled by learning about solutions.
What does equity in education mean for you at Cool.org?
For me, Cool.org provides a unique pathway to equity in education. Firstly, we provide our resources free of charge to teachers and schools. Our model uses partnerships and philanthropic funding to produce content, meaning we can provide teachers with high-quality lessons built from expert information without having to pass the cost onto them.
We also provide alternative pathways and differentiation in our resources to let teachers meet their students’ needs and make the most of the resources they have to hand.
We know every school is in a different situation so making flexible resources is a must. And we build our lessons to provide representation for different cultures, backgrounds, abilities and identities. A great example is our Bridging the Digital Divide unit, showcasing First Nations technology innovators.
You can’t be what you can’t see! At Cool.org we aim to level the playing field for students, teachers and schools by providing access to relevant, usable and engaging resources for all.
How does Cool address climate change and environmental learning for children in schools?
We go to the source and tap into environmental experts to make sure we are providing accurate and up-to-date information. We present this information to children through our Hope and Act frameworks.
While an optimistic outlook can be one of positivity with no real foundation, we work to help students create a hopeful outlook where we build a realistic picture of the situation but also provide pathways forward. We follow this up with lessons that provide students with the opportunity to implement real actions that have an impact on their own communities and lives.
How can children benefit from learning about environmental issues in school?
Mission Australia Youth Survey 2022 reports that 51.0% of young people identified the environment as one of the most important issues in Australia. That is huge.
Much of the information students get about the state of the environment tends to come through the media, which can paint a very sensationalised picture of affairs.
Not to say that the current state of the environment isn’t dire, but when all children are getting news bites about how bad it is, it’s pretty easy to feel like the situation is hopeless.
By embedding environmental education in the curriculum, we have the opportunity to present environmental issues as a problem that can be tackled. Students can build hope from learning about environmental issues in schools, but more importantly, they can build a future.
We know these issues need to be addressed, and by building the capability and capacity of the next generation, we’re setting them up to have a future.
How do you bring the real world of climate change into the classroom?
We go to the experts, squeeze all the knowledge and experience we can from them, turn that into learning experiences, and then give students pathways forward.
We’re currently working with Smart Ease, who are innovators in sustainable energy implementation. We’re designing a project for students to conduct an energy audit of their school, identify where there is energy waste and what their greenhouse gas emissions are, and then we’re tapping into the Smart Ease experts to find solutions.
Not only do we bring the real world into the classroom, but we push the classroom out into the real world and show students that they can have an impact on their community and future and make a tangible difference.
What can teachers gain from attending the Summit when it comes to working with children and young people for sustainability?
Strategies and pathways to make an impact. So often, schools operate in a theoretical bubble, which is why we hear students asking, ‘When am I ever going to use this?’. By coming together at this summit, we want to talk together and workshop to create ways forward.
When it comes to sustainability and environmental issues, we know that the communities that are most impacted are those on the other side of the divide. Low-socioeconomic, rural and regional, First Nations and CALD communities are all on the list of the first to feel the environmental impacts.
This summit is about bridging that divide, leveling the playing field, and creating real-actionable changes. We’ve just released a very cool series of resources focusing on jobs and skills in a climate-change economy.
These resources aim to showcase skills and jobs that are currently emerging and provide students and teachers with pathways to these careers.
Changing intergenerational patterns is a difficult thing to do, but education is a proven pathway. If we want to move towards a sustainable future, education has to show the way, and by bringing teachers and leaders together at this summit, we can chart the course.
Why are you attending the Bridging the Divide Summit?
The divide is big and we can’t bridge it alone! Bringing everyone together lets us identify key issues, determine what teachers need, establish commonalities and create plans to move forward. I’m really looking forward to sharing the work that we have been doing, hearing from teachers about what challenges they are facing and planning together how we can support our school communities.
Conclusion: Engaging with resource sharing and the distribution of insightful solutions is a key focus of the Bridging the Divide Summit on April 10th-11th.
If you’re interested in learning more about Cool.org and hearing how the Australian education system can tackle challenges through comprehensive and engaging classroom learning check out the Panel discussion ‘Climate change and its implications for education,’ at 1:30pm Wednesday the 10th of April at Centrepiece at Melbourne Park.
If you’re an innovative primary or secondary teacher and want to learn more about how bring Cool.org resources to your classroom, attend the ‘Bringing hope and action to teaching,’ intensive workshop on April 9th in Melbourne alongside Hamish Curry and Helen Masters.