Empowering Students for a Sustainable Future: The Push for Solutions-Oriented Climate Education

Educators and students advocate for a shift in teaching approaches to prepare the next generation for the challenges of climate change and a greener economy.

As the threat of climate change looms large, educators and students are calling for a new approach to teaching about the environment. Traditional science-based lessons on climate change are no longer enough. Instead, there is a growing demand for a solutions-oriented approach that empowers students to tackle the challenges they will face in the future. This shift in education aims to go beyond just teaching the science of climate change and incorporate principles of sustainability into all subjects. By connecting sustainable practices to all careers, students can be better prepared to create a greener, more sustainable world.

Empowering Students through a Solutions-Oriented Approach

In classrooms across the country, educators like Martin Ogle are advocating for a shift in teaching methods. Ogle believes that it is crucial to move beyond teaching the science of climate change and focus on empowering students to design the jobs and economy of the future based on a deep understanding of how humans fit into the living system. By taking a solutions-oriented approach, students are better equipped to take on the challenges of climate change rather than feeling overwhelmed by them.

The benefits of this approach are clear. Students who are taught to think critically about sustainability and are given the tools to create change feel empowered rather than depressed. They are prepared to take on the challenges of the world and are more likely to make a positive impact.

Integrating Sustainability into the Curriculum

To fully prepare students for the future, sustainability principles should be woven throughout the curriculum, not just confined to environmental studies classes. Educators like Jenny Brundin argue that sustainability should be incorporated into subjects like math, English, social studies, and science. This approach helps students understand the connections between sustainable practices and all careers, ensuring that graduates are ready to put their education into action.

However, the current education system often fails to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of climate concepts. By the time students reach high school, environmental studies are often treated as an elective, leaving many students with little knowledge about climate change. This gap in education can be addressed by integrating sustainability principles into all subjects, giving students a well-rounded understanding of the challenges and solutions related to climate change.

Fostering Creativity and Empowerment in the Classroom

Innovative educators like Kristie Letter are already implementing sustainability principles in their classrooms. Letter’s innovation and design class challenges students to design sustainable products using materials that would otherwise be discarded. By encouraging creativity and critical thinking, students are empowered to think outside the box and create solutions to environmental challenges.

However, not all teachers have the resources or support to adopt a solutions-oriented approach to teaching sustainability. Many teachers are already overwhelmed with demands on their time and struggle to keep up with the curriculum. To fully integrate sustainability into classrooms, teachers need access to classroom materials and resources that can be used across multiple subject areas.

The Role of Academic Standards and Funding

While Colorado’s academic standards emphasize problem-solving, critical thinking, and civic engagement, there is currently no legislation mandating resources for sustainability or solutions-oriented material on climate change. Teachers often lack the preparation and resources needed to teach climate change effectively. State education leaders should consider creating classroom materials on sustainability that can be used in multiple subject areas. Additionally, funding should be allocated to support systemic efforts to integrate sustainability into the curriculum.

Preparing Students for the Green Economy

Teaching sustainability and climate solutions is not just about incorporating them into academics but also about preparing students for their future careers. Colorado schools are already exposing students to a range of career pathways, including green pathways related to renewable energy, water quality management, and environmental science. However, Martin Ogle believes that all students should be exposed to ideas around sustainability and the growing green economy, regardless of their chosen career path.

The demand for workers with sustainability competencies is already double the supply, and schools need to prepare students for the greening of all jobs in the future. Initiatives like Green Teach for Opportunity are working to connect teachers with the skills and resources they need to prepare students for in-demand sustainability jobs. By infusing sustainability skills across the curriculum and partnering with industry professionals, teachers can help students develop the skills needed for a greener future.


The push for solutions-oriented climate education is gaining momentum as educators and students recognize the need for a comprehensive understanding of sustainability and the challenges posed by climate change. By integrating sustainability principles into all subjects and connecting sustainable practices to all careers, students can be better prepared to create a greener, more sustainable world. However, to fully implement this approach, teachers need access to resources, funding, and professional development opportunities. By empowering students with the knowledge and skills to address climate change, we can ensure a brighter and more sustainable future for all.