TEACHING WITH THE EARTH CHARTER
Schools and educators around the world have incorporated the Earth Charter into their teaching and have generated a number of lesson plans, activities and entire curricula around the various principles. In fact, if you remember from an earlier module, the National Peace Academy’s entire framework for peacebuilding and peacelearning is built around the idea of right relationships expressed in the Earth charter: “…peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part.”
This page introduces you to a number of Earth Charter teaching resources for the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of education, in addition to resources for teaching in nonformal settings. Read the Guide for Using the Earth Charter in Education and then choose at least one of the other resources to review.
Guide for Using the Earth Charter in Education (all levels)
“This Guide provides basic information on how to use the Earth Charter in educational settings. It will be especially helpful to educators who are working in the fields of environmental education, education for sustainable development, human rights education, human ecology education, peace education, humane education, social education and allied areas.”
Teaching a Sustainable Lifestyle with the Earth Charter (primary & secondary levels)
“This current Guideline is geared toward teachers of primary education, especially for the Second Cycle of Basic General Education. It uses the Earth Charter as an educational tool and incorporates its values and principles of creating a more just and sustainable world. It offers various techniques and activities for teachers to put the crosscutting theme “Environmental Culture for Sustainable Development” into practice.
“Furthermore, this Guideline attempts to promote educational programs which will drive the formation of attitudes, aptitudes and behaviors based on a respect for nature, human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace.”
The Earth Charter in Action at the University of Georgia, Athens (tertiary level)
“During the Spring 2011 semester, 19 University of Georgia students signed up for a 3-hour credit Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) course, Costa Rican Culture and Ecology. The course met once per week for two hours during the semester in Athens, Georgia, and included a 9-day field experience immersion in Costa Rica over Spring Break. The students kept journals throughout the semester, reflecting on their readings and guest presentations, and they made daily entries reflecting on their many experiences while in Costa Rica.
“They read the book, Earth Charter in Action, and their final project assignment was to write a brief paper about an example of the Earth Charter in action at the University of Georgia. Each student was given one Earth Charter principle to serve as the focus of their paper. Two of the students, Amanda Lee and Maria Kelly, took the course for Honors credit and had the task of assembling all of the final, edited papers into one document which they have presented here.”
Earth Scouts: A Resource Guides for Families Bringing Up Children in the Spirit of the Earth Charter
“Our goal for Earth Scouts is to support families evolving their own sustainable lifestyles, by bringing you activities, stories of successful community service dreamed up and carried out by youth, group process tips, explanations of the Earth Charter, and the experiences of other Earth Scout Communities. Our definition of family for this book is broad: loving people who join together in the hard and important work of raising children. Living by the principles in the Earth Charter, and trying to be a caring and responsible member of our Global Human Family requires creativity and a supportive community. We hope you find tools and ideas for both in the pages of this book.”
Click here to view all the Earth Charter educational resources.
Reflection Question: The Guide for Using the Earth Charter in Education outlines ten themes and eight educational goals that are emphasized in the charter. Think about the educational contexts in which you work, have worked, or will be working. If you were to integrate elements of the Earth Charter into that context what educational theme would you choose and what educational goal would you pair it with? Why?
The educational theme that I would incorporate in my classroom is “Democracy, Nonviolence and Peace” paired together with the goal “Rising Awareness and Understanding of Critical Global Problems.” The theme and goal would integrate into the literary and informational texts that we read, discuss and analyze. They would also be more compatible with the standard objectives for some of the units. For example a reading of the novel The Kite Runner that is set in Afghanistan and America could provide avenue for critical and comparative analysis of environmental, and especially social and economic situation in the two countries. In addition, students will be exposed to democratic process, and issues of nonviolence and peace.
Theme: Partnerships, collaboration and global governance
Goal: Raising awareness and understanding of critical global problems
In thinking about my future high school history class, I would want to instill the idea that an individual person is an important part of a larger community that has a role that affects the future of our planet. I would also want to instill that the larger community has a duty to the individuals that make up their community. In having a relationship like that, hopefully my students will realize the responsibility that everybody has to each other. Since I am not teaching in a classroom yet, I can see this really working well in a geography class.
I would choose to integrate Theme 5: The greater community of life and pair it with Goal 4: Inspiring a spirit of collaboration, cooperation, and action. I would choose theme 5 and goal 4 because collaboration, cooperation, and action are necessary for creating a classroom community where all individuals are valued. Creating a classroom community is a main goal that I set at the beginning of the school year because I want my students to feel important, heard, comfortable to be themselves, safe, and able to take risks. Without a strong classroom community, students’ academic, emotional, and social learning will be stunted. Once a supportive community is established, I will be able to integrate the other themes and goals of the Earth Charter because student learning will be maximized.
I would incorporate the Ethic and Earth Character. By having this guideline with my daily used activities this would enforce the correct way to do things in the class. It’s almost like the right and wrong thing to do. Knowing the ethics is very important to me it’s like the appropriate ways of living, character, behavior and background. I would also add the goal of “Applying values and principles’’, where in life we have to have a basic foundation of how to deal with life, culture, and reality. At the school, we have circle time and we practice using our ethics and judgments with the high five principle. This system is set up to help with character and to hold students accountable for their actions.
The preamble to the Earth Charter explains that “we must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment”. To that end, the theme I would choose to hone in on theme 4, universal rights and responsibilities. The charter indicates that,” all human beings also have social and ecological responsibilities. These common responsibilities should be differentiated according to each person’s capacities and circumstances. In addition, it is important to recognize that social and ecological responsibilities create limits on the exercise of rights and freedoms”. I would choose this theme because I believe it to have a great deal of utility because of how broad the idea of our individual rights and responsibilities being tied to another. It is imperative that citizenship be developed early on and that encompasses having and nurturing a respect for one another and the world we live in. Some educational goals I would tie to this theme are
Goal 2: Promoting dialogue on the values and principles for a sustainable way of life and pointing to the ways in which we all benefit from such conversations and resulting actions.
Goal 3: Promoting individuals’ ethical development, and teaching students the value in and application of good local and global citizenship.
Goal 6. Applying values and principle, which means showing students how to put ideals into action and instilling in youth a desire to get and stay involved.
One of the five ways the school library media program impacts student learning is by providing information resources to help deliver instruction and facilitate and support learning. These resources can take any format from live to print to electronic. They can also take the form of professional developments, forums, or demonstrations. In terms of this context, I would choose:
Goal 8. Assisting educational institutions and systems in reorienting their teaching and operations towards sustainable ways of living.
with the theme:
Theme 1. Critical global challenges and choices. The Earth Charter Preamble outlines the critical environmental, social and economic challenges that confront humanity in the twenty-first century and highlights the choices we must make in order to build a more just, sustainable and peaceful world.
To me this is a logical way to start. I would share, first, with administrators and teachers and, then, parents, poets and other interested students, the preamble to the Earth Charter and facilitate discussions around the challenges and choices. Encourage them to brainstorm activities, research topics, social/educational actions, information products (videos, poetry, festivals/slams, essays, etc.) we/they could create. For the teachers, I would also include bibliography of close readings they could use in the subject areas. Also, supplement this program with appropriate resource displays and guest speakers/authors.
I’ve already taught a unit in my advanced ESL class on the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and I see there is a theme in the Earth Charter of universal rights and responsibilities. There are interesting, free materials for educators on the UN Declaration of Human Rights. They include a snazzy video about the history of human rights that engaged my student.
Now that I know about the Earth Charter, I would like to extend this lesson to include “responsibilities” such as taking care of the Earth, as well as universal rights.
I listened to one of the songs from the Earth Charter album. It was in Spanish and talked about “our world” but I couldn’t understand all the lyrics. It might be fun to play that song in class.
I would use, Inspiring a spirit of collaboration, cooperation, and action, we have to do all of these to have a successful school, much less classroom. It would be in that order also. I would start with the teachers, then parents, and students. Once we have completed that go into the community and work on the stakeholders to make partnerships. I saved them for last because they are going to need data to see that what you are doing is working.
Theme: Preventing and Mitigating the Impacts of Human Activity.
Students exercise critical thinking skills in my Graphic Design and Interactive Media classes, and after some discussion of the issues, I would like students to be engaged in creating an awareness campaign for a topic related to the theme identified above, and hopefully identify and produce proposals for solutions. Students in my class will be prototyping user interfaces and can propose a user interface for a phone app that might monitor the user’s carbon footprint.
The theme that I would use in my educational environment would be “greater community of life” and I will pair it up with goal of “inspiring collaboration, cooperation, and action. In order to have a greater community of life we must be able to share ideas (effective communication), effectively work with one another, and put our great ideas and into action.
I would choose the goal of “Promoting individuals’ ethical development.” Based on the reading a did for section 2, I think ethical development is crucial for putting the Earth Charter into practice. It is only through individuals’ actions that goals can be accomplished. The Armenian student said that the biggest obstacle was others’ immorality. A more ethical society would make this easier. The theme I would use is “universal rights and responsibilities.” People must be responsible for others in order to achieve universal rights.
I would choose to incorporate the theme of “greater community of life” into my educational environment and I would link it with the goal of “inspiring collaboration, cooperation and action”. I would focus on these two issues because I see collaboration and cooperation as two of the most important aspects of a successful and positive environment no matter what age, life experiences, or cultural backgrounds participants/individuals/students may have.
I would choose one or possibly two themes – the first would be Democracy, Non-Violence and Peace; and the second would be Global Ethics. I would pair these with the educational goal of Applying Values and Principles.
I would choose these for adult learners who are essentially all highly technically educated and qualified. These learners are already quite adept at making technical decisions, finding technical solutions, and are guided by bottom lines of cost-benefit, cost effectiveness, and rates of return.
I would pair the “greater community of life” theme with the goal of “raising awareness and understanding of critical global problems” in my documentary film classes. I feel that film is an excellent way to create a community of people, both by creating the film and then by sharing the film with the community it is from. The goal of raising awareness is paramount in documentary filmmaking already, so it fits perfectly.
The theme that I would choose is: “Critical global challenges and choices. The Earth Charter Preamble outlines the critical environmental, social and economic challenges that confront humanity in the twenty-first century and highlights the choices we must make in order to build a more just, sustainable and peaceful world.”
The world is riddled with problems but the solution is not to have every person tackle every problem. The first step, especially in education and school settings, should be to teach people and individually learn about problems that exist. We cannot expect ourselves or our students to address problems if the roots of the problems are unknown, oversimplified, or just wrong.
The goal I would choose is: “Promoting dialogue on the values and principles for a sustainable way of life – Common goals and shared values are the foundation of a strong and healthy community. The Earth Charter is a valuable resource for promoting dialogue on the common goals and shared values needed to build just, sustainable, and peaceful communities both locally and globally. Dialogue requires respect for cultural diversity and the opinions of others, careful listening, and the open-minded search for common ground.”
Dialogue is in an incredibly powerful tool. It allows us to think through problems, identify new problems, understand our complacency or position in embedding problems, and it encourages people to communicate together. Dialogue is important because it does not assume a problem is understood and the solution is known. It provides the space for exploration.
Theme – Interdependence of social, economic and environmental concerns
Goal- Promoting Individual’s Ethical Development
I chose the combination of these two simply because they align with my ethical paradigm. Most of the other themes I found to be morally and philosophically problematic, as they assume a universal conception of morality or “good.” As a result, understanding interdependence can be an avenue of ethical development that allows one to engage in critical thinking and a moral process of “why one acts”, not social control.
Theme – Interdependence of social, economic and environmental concerns
Goal – Inspiring a spirit of collaboration, cooperation, and action
As the Earth Charter describes numerous times, the environmental sustainability problems we face are extremely complex, and in order to solve these problems the next generation must understand the causes of these problems, how interconnected the sources of conflict are, and how to work together to solve these problems. The causes are connected, and people must be connected to help address these issues. Regardless of a students racial / socioeconomic background, these problems affect all of us in our everyday life and future. By giving students some of the tools of collaboration with peers and awareness of the problem, we can successfully implement the goals of the Earth Charter.
The educational theme I like most is the emphasis on universal rights and universal responsibilities, as defined by the UN Declaration of Human Rights. My first true introduction to these ideas was during a human rights-specific class at AU, and I really wish I’d learned about it earlier, and in an environmental context. I don’t think it’s ever too early to talk to children about their universal rights, and how those relate to responsibilities, as well as the fact that everyone else should share the same rights and responsibilities. I’d pair this theme with educational goal #3, promoting individuals’ ethical development. The expansion of ethical awareness is a life-long process, but who says it can’t start early in life, either in the formal elementary classroom or informally, at summer camps? I love how the document says ethical development can “involve thinking imaginatively with both the head and the heart.” Who better to do that than young children?
Theme – Interdependence of Social, Economic, and Environmental Concerns
Goal – Promoting Dialogue on the Values and Principles for a Sustainable Way of Life
An important part of social studies education is economics and understanding how economic systems work as a reflection of a factor in human actions. I want my students to see each of their actions as something in a greater story.
I don’t mean this because I want them to feel good about themselves, though that is a goal of mine. Rather, I mean I want my students to see that each action they take has lasting consequences outside of the classroom.
I think the interdependence in this theme can help illustrate how students can take individual actions to create a sustainable way of life on a small scale, thus creating it on a large scale down the road.
I would choose the theme of “Universal rights and universal responsibilities” and pair it with the goal of “promoting individuals’ ethical development.” This theme is all about understanding that every person was born with rights, and every person has responsibilities that match their age and ability level. The goal of promoting individual ethical development would be well-paired with this theme because it stresses the importance of sharing different ideas about what responsibility looks like, then it asks individuals to make their own commitments and goals and to basically demonstrate how they will take up some sort of responsibility.
As stated in the education guide, the earth charter can be useful in teaching human rights, which is what I am currently teaching in DC public schools. The ideas on ethics presented in the earth charter align well with human rights. The earth charter “is designed as a vision of global ethics, which can be used to promote ongoing reflection and dialogue across different cultural perspectives.” My work teaching Human Rights focuses a lot on allowing students to reflect and talk about what is ethical in the context of human rights in their own lives, communities, countries and across the globe. My goal is to create dialogue for students to explore what their own ethical principles are and open awareness of what has happened to hinder human rights throughout history as well as consider ways in which human rights have been fought for or protected. I don’t want to make decisions for them but open up their thinking to what is ethical and what the term means to them in their own lives as well as for others across the globe.
I would choose the theme of the greater community of life and pair it with the goal of promoting dialogue on the values and principles for a sustainable way of life. The ethnocentrism of American culture often limits students understanding their role in the greater world community. This theme allows one to create an open dialogue for students to consider their responsibilities in relation to people from other nations, cultures, religions, etc. And as an educator, you can extend this conversation to our responsibilities towards animals and ecosystems. By promoting dialogue, students will gain awareness and respect for cultural diversity and be incline to act for a more sustainable and peaceful world community.
I would focus on the theme of social, economic, and environmental justice and I would pair it with inspiring a spirit of collaboration, cooperation, and action. This unit, we have been studying the theme of human dignity as well as concepts of man vs. himself. I feel like expanding their view of what these issues encompass to the world at large would help give them context for their place in the world. I believe they would feel empowered to know that their struggles parallel those of young people all around the world, and that by working together both with their classmates as well as reaching out to like-minded people through social media, etc., a dialogue for change can be facilitated. I would encourage them to think of these issues as being a part of environmental awareness, as our actions always come back to how we treat our resources and how this then further impacts our lives.
The theme that I would choose to use is the greater community of life and I would pair it with the educational goal of raising awareness and understanding of critical global problems. I would say the vast majority of my students cannot see how they fit into the greater picture because their exposure has been very limited to their little box of the area surrounding our school. Because they don’t have this critical exposure to what’s going on around them, for some of them it proves an impossible task to really envision what their responsibilities are concerning future generations or even other people in their generation. I think pairing increasing this awareness with an increased awareness of economic, environmental, and social issues that are ongoing would spark good conversation and help students to form their own educated opinions on environmental responsibility.