The Office for Climate Education (OCE) interviewed Laetitia Legrand, a Life and Earth Science teacher in a school in Aquitaine, France and a participant in the TeachersCOP in 2022. She tells us more about the project she presented at COP27 aimed at implementing climate change education into the school curriculum.
- HELLO LAETITIA, TO BEGIN WITH, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
Being a teacher was not initially a calling for me, even though today I love my job. I had a slightly unusual education. I am a specialist in marine geosciences whereas Life and Earth Science teachers are usually specialists in biology, and in addition, I am attracted to communication, scientific journalism...
“I was told throughout my youth that I was a literature student and yet I have a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in science. I have always been a little bit against the grain of these stereotypes.
After almost 20 years of teaching, and to deepen certain activities with my students, I decided to pursue a Master's degree in Climate and Communication with the École Supérieure de Journalisme de Lille and the Université Paris-Saclay last year.
- WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO PARTICIPATE IN THE TEACHERSCOP?
“I saw the event on Twitter and immediately thought it was a great idea to be able to share with other teachers the projects we are doing related to climate change.
- CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT THE PROJECT YOU SUBMITTED TO TEACHERSCOP AND HOW IT ADDRESSES CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION?
"The idea was to work on climate change using everything related to media and information education.
I realized that about ten years ago, students were told in the curriculum to do a presentation on fossil fuels, renewable energy, endangered species. Now it doesn't happen like that anymore. First because communication and information methods have changed: teenagers no longer search for information in books, they are always on social media, but they don't know how to sort information. So year after year, I saw scientific elements that were becoming less and less accurate, and at the same time, I felt they were no longer satisfied with this way of working.
“So, I conducted a little survey to find out if it generated some kind of eco-anxiety. I realized that in my school of about 700-800 students, 2/3 declared themselves eco-anxious; they found that we did not talk enough about climate change in the curriculum.
I then analyzed many school textbooks for my thesis and realized that the discourse was: species will disappear, sea levels will rise, we will face a water war... There was very little optimism, they were presented with a world they did not want to live in.
“That's why I said to myself: I'm going to do solution journalism! I'm going to try to approach this topic by making them actors: if you put your students in an actor position, not only will they be interested in the subject, but it will also reduce their eco-anxiety.
I started using media and having them work on writing articles. For example, on the disappearance of turtles, but they shouldn't just say - turtles are screwed with climate change, they're disappearing - they should also look for solutions, study it from a more optimistic angle.
“I discovered the OCE’s resources at the same time, including lessons with experiments. So, I carried out these experiments with my students so that they could then use them in their articles.
- WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE IMPACTS OF THIS PROJECT?
In terms of climate action, I conducted another survey after implementing the project.
“Currently, 80% of students believe that working with the media is essential, that the media has a real role to play in terms of climate change and climate action.
- DO YOU HAVE AN ANECDOTE ABOUT THIS PROJECT TO SHARE WITH US?
During this project, we also worked with the newspaper Décoder, whose principle is to connect scientists with classes and popularize scientific articles. The idea is to make scientific publications, which are often inaccessible to the general public, a little more appealing so that the general public wants to read them.
What surprised me a lot when we published the first article last year was the reaction of all the protagonists.
At the beginning, the scientists were afraid of doing it wrong, they were afraid that the students wouldn't understand, that they wouldn't like it. And in fact, they were amazed. When they saw the final article, they didn't think we could do that with middle school kids.
And it was also the reaction of the students. We are a small rural college, lost in the suburbs of Bordeaux. The fact that scientists and journalists were interested in and working with them surprised them.
I had students who were super depressed, during a video call with Jérôme Blanchart, editor-in-chief of Sciences & Vie Junior, they told him:
“We are useless, we can't do anything to change the world, to fight climate change.
But at the end of the project, they told me:
“Thank you! In fact, that's not true, we are quite capable of doing something!
It surprised me because I didn't think it could happen so quickly. So, yes, it's work, but it can be done and it can have such an impact!
- WHAT DO YOU THINK THE TEACHERSCOP BROUGHT TO YOU? WHAT DID IT TEACH YOU? DID IT INSPIRE YOU?
I am a bit like my students, it reduced my eco-anxiety. I thought to myself, we often feel like we are alone in our corner doing things, facing all the difficulties, wondering if what we are doing is really useful. And when I saw all the projects that were presented, I thought: it's wonderful, there's a real network all over the world!
This TeachersCOP allows people to connect, to see what is being done around the world. At first, I felt like an impostor: when I see what they do in developing countries, then here we are, crying in our corner when we don't have the same problems. They don't know if they will still have a place to live, or if they will have clean water.
But ultimately, even if it is not us who will be impacted first, when we look at the responsibility of Western countries, the historical responsibility is there...
“I realized that everyone has to contribute their little piece to the puzzle, and it is very good to connect all countries so that we can see what is being done and continue to do it and be inspired by it.
- WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO TEACHERS WHO WOULD LIKE TO IMPLEMENT CHANGES RELATED TO CLIMATE CHANGE BUT ARE HESITANT TO DO SO?
I try to convince my colleagues by telling them that they need to be courageous, not to see too big at first, to start small, to not be afraid of failure, and to not be discouraged if things do not work out. I also tell them to surround themselves with others because we are not trained enough. Therefore, I refer them to available resources and training from OCE. I think that is the key - there comes a time when you have to try, you have to take the plunge without fear, and don't hesitate to seek help as well!
- HOW DO YOU SEE THE ROLE OF TEACHERS IN CLIMATE CHANGE EDUCATION?
For me, it is central. UNESCO has been emphasizing for 30 years that education has a central role in climate change.
“Our role is to give individuals, our students, future citizens, the keys to become agents of change, to tell them that they have the ability, they can do it, and that together we can build a change, a transition in societies.
It also gives meaning to our teaching. The condition of teachers has deteriorated in recent years. The perception that society has of teachers often reflects a subordinate role. We have become a profession that is not valued, that is not envied. And I want to say that it's not true: being a teacher is great, we have an important role to play - and education remains the foundation of everything!