The school doesn’t have a green thumb – liberation

In their report to the government in 2020, the members of the Citizen’s Climate Convention were not wrong. Among their suggestions as evidence: “Amending the Code of Education for a generalization of environmental education and education for sustainable development (EEDD) in the French school model. Our enlightened citizens, like all those who have studied it before them, have discovered the inappropriate: in France, we talk more and more about the environment, but we teach it so little.

However, the idea is not new. She’s even in her fifties. “We find it in associative circles and political ecology movements from the 1970s”, testifies the sociologist Marie Jacqué, author of a dissertation on environmental education in France and lecturer at the University of Aix-Marseille (UAM). At that time, it first went through innovative practices of popular education and through pioneering committed projects such as the mythical naturalist magazine Hulotestablished in 1972 that awakened generations of citizens to the art of understanding and loving the living.

The authorities themselves will at least take up the topic in discourse. “In its institutional dimension, the term emerged during the first major international conferences on the environment, remarks Marie Jacque. We find them in 1972 in Stockholm, at the United Nations Conference on the Environment, then in 1975 at the International Seminar on Environmental Education in Belgrade.. In France, circular environmental education was introduced in 1977.

Problem: National education will never really activate it. Admittedly, we’ve been excited for a number of years. In 2013 it was included in the Education Code by the School Reform Act and the label “E3D” was created (like “School facilities in the process of sustainable development”). More recently, in 2019, the status of “eco delegate” was invented in the classroom… But neither the funds nor the course hours followed. Most importantly, the programs continue to forego the most important tool for understanding ecology: the natural sciences.

“I don’t see any scientific ambition in elementary school”Despairs biologist and professor at the National Museum of Natural History, Marc-André Selosse, a major activist for promoting life sciences, the earth and the environment at school. “Teachers who have been pushed into literature and weaned from science during their own training are no longer equipped to even talk about trees in their own school yard.”. In the secondary school, in his opinion, the situation is just as worrying. “We send the environment here and there, in geo, in SVT or in ecoscience, at the expense of a truly systemic vision”.

In short, the ideological bias prevailed over the scientific approach. “Today we remain in a very moralistic environmental education, dominated by the dogmas of Ademe [l’Agence de l’environnement et de la maîtrise de l’énergie, ndlr]analyzes the researcher Marie Jacqué (UAM). Treatment of water, waste, electrification of the economy: young people are learning managerial thinking and the ideologies of eco-citizenship and sustainable development”.

This observation is all the more bitter as the current crises – health, climate, biodiversity, etc. – require reliable scientific instruments. “Previous generations made mistakes related to a methodological problem. Giving young generations the tools to do better is an absolute emergency!‘ thunders Marc-André Selosse.

“Education in scientific ecology has a double interest, adds François Deroo, director of the Petits Débrouillards scientific discovery association, which supports almost 700,000 young people aged 5 to 25 in France every year: become aware of the seriousness of the situation and be able to participate in it. Just to have the fears… and the solutions that come with them.” Like Marc-André Selosse, François Deroo defends a science that would be an integral part of culture, just like sport or theatre. And a science as a dynamic attitude throughout life, the only way, in their opinion, to continue to understand and respond to what surrounds us: “Knowledge changes every six months, so do solutions”notes François Deroo.

All is not lost while waiting for school to start, however: tutoring in scientific ecology is now within everyone’s reach. There are numerous places and opportunities for children, young people or adults. “The offer has grown and diversifiedMarc-André Selosse enthuses: Let’s confusely quote the permanent centers of initiatives for the environment (almost 80 today in France)botanical gardens, multi-age universities and their conferencesthose general public, natural history societies or, of course, natural history museums”. Without forgetting “the great historical associations” like the LPO (which claims that 500,000 people are made aware of environmental education every year) or the Frene (formerly the School and Nature Network). Finally, there is the media that counts “excellent popularizers”: Mathieu Vidard on France Inter (“Earth squared”), Jamy Gourmaud on France TV, etc.

Another good news concerns the democratization of a virtuous practice: citizen science. “The approach itself is not new. At the museum, our first program called Stoc (time tracking of common birds), dates from 1989, emphasizes Nathalie Machon, professor of urban ecology and scientific director of the participatory science programs on flora at the MNHN. What is new, however, is that we are now addressing the general public, and that many of them are following.” As a symbol of this success, the joint bird count weekends bring more and more people together: more than 17,000 participating gardens in January and more than 4,000 in May. Tela Botanica, the network of French-speaking botanists, now has nearly 60,000 members…

Supported by the digital tool (applications and platforms) and by the awareness of the scientists themselves, “who are finally learning to go to their comfortable laboratories”, the approach connects the participants with science and their environment. So savages of my street, a participatory urban flora census program launched by the museum in 2011. “It’s a huge hit, even more so when local squadrons pick it up, testifies Nathalie Machon. In Blois, for example, almost the entire city was inventoried!”. “As long as we take care of him, she concludes People’s appetite for discovering the living is evident.”

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