By Maria Rossini, Head of Education, British Science Association

This article was first published in Education Journal (No. 508) on 7 December 2022.


Eco-anxiety is prevalent amongst young people: a recent UNICEF survey found 95 per cent are concerned about the climate crisis. Students feel their schools could do more to both lower their anxiety and integrate sustainability and climate change into lessons. Just 60 per cent of young people say they learn about these topics in the classroom.

Project-based STEM challenges can help students overcome the anxiety they feel about the environment, whilst building key cross-curricular analytical, problem-solving and teamworking skills. For example, there are lots of CREST project ideas which encourage students to pursue science projects. For example, students interested in the Earth’s rising temperature can investigate the impact of droughts on local ecosystems and communities, how droughts can be avoided and prevented and what further research is needed to combat the threat.

Students can lead the direction of their project, choosing to interview local scientists, delve into academic journals, find practical investigations linking with the topic, or explore what cutting-edge technology exists to support scientists on the front line of drought science. This can help them gain curriculum-aligned skills and knowledge they need to affect positive change, such as problem solving and clarity in writing as well as deeper scientific understanding.

Other projects could include investigating wind power as an alternative and sustainable alternative designing sustainable business solutions for their local area, investigating the role of trees and bumblebees or getting hands on with making their own recycled paper.

In line with the Government’s green skills agenda, these projects, done either within curriculum time or offered additionally, encourage students to think and act like real scientists by taking matters into their own hands and trying to find innovative and creative solutions, and to gain and sharpen the skills by researching, or investigating problems. This can also help them calm eco-anxiety by deepening the understanding of the current eco challenges and possible solutions.

The global climate crisis can feel overwhelming for many young people, but by integrating meaningful and relevant ‘green’ projects  into the curriculum, teachers can help students gain the skills and agency to make a genuine difference, both now and in the future. 91 per cent of young people believe personal actions can have a positive impact on climate change - they just need to confidence, skills and tools to turn this belief into a reality and that’s where we educators can help.