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Cook Island environmentalists to help integrate climate change into all school subjects

23 January 2018

Posted in: Pacific Radio News,

By Mabel Muller -

An environmental organisation in the Cook Islands will be working alongside teachers to help integrate climate change into all subjects, in an effort to teach students that climate change affects everything around them. 

Kōrero O Te 'Ōrau is a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting the environment and the Cook Islands' natural resources.

They will pilot a project at Rarotonga's Avarua Primary School, led by marine biology expert Dr. Teina Rongo, providing teachers with environmental resources which will then be tailored and used in all subjects.

Dr. Rongo says most students he's come across are out of touch with local environmental issues and it's a major concern.

"Climate change is a cross-cutting issue and it involves all areas of the subjects that are taught... So whatever field they [students] go into in the future, whether they become a lawyer, engineer or an environmentalist, they have that strong foundation."

"The concern is that we are moving away from that and can you imagine what decisions our people will make in the future if they're not connected to the environment? They'll be building hotels and mine without consideration for their environment."

Dr. Teina Rongo with school students. Photo/ Supplied.

Dr. Rongo says there are already resources available to help schools with environmental awareness but he doesn't know why they're not being utilised.

"Whether there's no capacity of teachers to use those materials or they're just not willing to use it, I'm not sure," he says. "The idea here is then that perhaps they need some assistance?"

"It involves the teachers developing the teaching units themselves so that they take ownership."

Dr. Rongo is also hoping schools will plan for more practicals and field trips to make the lessons more effective.

"They're [students] are on their phones and computers all the time so we're trying to bring more activities into the schools because it connects them to their environment so that they can understand the environmental issues because of the impacts of climate change."

Kōrero O Te 'Ōrau will pilot the project in the first school term and hopes the government will jump on board to carry it out in more schools and across all ages.

"It's something we in the Pacific should all be looking into for our future generations," says Dr. Rongo. "They will become better stewards of our environment for the future."

Dr. Teina Rongo teaching students. Photo/ Supplied.

Tags: environment, Cook Islands,