Over the years, the way teaching is carried out has changed beyond measure and we are seeing more focus than ever on the importance of not only access to learning, but the right to create a space that is open to relevant growth and improvement.

This includes ensuring the next generation is suitably educated on subjects far broader than the staples of maths, English and science. There is a demand for young people to understand the world they are inheriting and an urgency to prepare them for the challenges ahead – and even more so, to equip them with the knowledge to address and challenge what has come before and seek solutions to create a better future.

Virgin Unite, go explorer, Rio

One initiative really walking the talk is a Sustainable Schools Project in Brazil. Initiated in 2016, Brazil’s coastal city Rio de Janeiro took action to empower students, teachers and their surrounding communities with knowledge on sustainability and climate change.

With a target of achieving 40 sustainable schools by the end of 2020, Rio has its work cut out – the programme requires a number of new teaching concepts and practices to ensure students learn how to use natural resources in a sustainable fashion, are educated on the importance of recycling and understand how to shrink their carbon footprint.

Conversations around climate change and education on the issues surrounding it certainly aren’t innovative, but the Sustainable Schools Project is doing more than merely talking about climate change, they are actively engaging their young people in the issue.

This approach is particularly valuable in Rio’s low-income areas where there is a real need for education about the importance of recycling waste, water conservation and general low-emission habits. 

The programme works to address all of these areas with different focused initiatives – for example, all participating schools have developed vegetable gardens to help promote healthy eating and provide organic vegetables to the communities surrounding the schools. New composting facilities have also been introduced to ensure vegetable oil is disposed of correctly, avoiding water pollution. In fact more than 800 litres of oil were collected by students from three schools in 2016 to avoid improper disposal.

Providing such a hands-on environment for education not only enables Rio’s young people to learn the importance of being an active citizen in their community, but the value of cooperation, and the effects of doing good from a young age.

In the words of Barack Obama: "No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change."

Let’s act now.

Cities100 is a mission shared by Sustainia, C40 and Realdania to find the 100 leading city solutions to climate change. Read the 2016 publication, and follow the conversation online using #Cities100

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