Today, we would like to share with you the story of Mélodia Majidi, 29 years old, school teacher for 6 years now and director of the Montreuil School of Science.
My name is Mélodia Majidi, I am 29 years old, and I live with my little boy in the Paris region. My university career has been quite atypical, going through studies in medicine, psychology and neuroscience. I have been a school teacher for 6 years now. Today I am the director of the Montreuil School of Science, one of the 23 pilot centers of the foundation La main à la Pâte in partnership with the French National Education. I raise the awareness of the pedagogical teams to the teaching of science, and I prepare workshops on different themes to bring the learning of the subject to life.
Why are you a teacher? What motivates you in education today?
Before coming to teaching, I spent some time studying science, but I have a serious literary background from my bachelor's degree. I find that it has always been difficult not to position myself differently than being "scientific" or "literary". In my opinion, it is not productive to pursue this desire induced by our society, which is to separate these two fields. In choosing this path of teaching, I told myself that it was the best way for me to prove that this separation was useless and conditioned a reduction in each person's abilities, and this, from a very young age. For me, teaching means investing my convictions and commitments in my profession. It means training future adults, constantly questioning my practice to evaluate how to enable them to have solid foundations for the future. In teaching, I see a constant evolution, which can only be positive. I take great pleasure in seeing a method work for such and such a student, to tell myself that for another, it didn't work and that I have to change my approach. I am passionate about this profession because I learn as much as my students every day. Teaching is an ongoing experiment.
Why do you think climate change education is important?
I'm not yet 30 years old, and I remember the sessions we used to do in class when I was a child on the risks of fossil fuels. Then a little later, on the warnings of scientists about global warming. Yet, at the present time, can we really see the impact of these sequences? I would like to believe so. Yes, because today it is the youth of the 80s and 90s who are working and striving to save a climate that is deteriorating more and more. Not just us, of course. But we have nevertheless grown up with this little countdown over our heads.
Why do you think we should have climate change education and to what extent?
In fact, all the lights are in crimson red. What did we miss? It is true that by only explaining the theories and alarming findings, we may not have had the opportunity to take concrete action. School is however the best place to teach the actions necessary to improve the situation. We tend to call French and mathematics "the fundamentals of school". But can we not also say that climate change education is more than fundamental, because it is urgent? The school is capable of generating this knowledge, as long as the teacher is accompanied. Today, forcing the teaching of climate science should not be an option: it is a global cause, which starts at home, in our kitchen, in our living room. Anticipating the future, changing our behavior, adapting our geography, must be at the heart of our society. And therefore, of our schools.
What is the state of climate change education in your classrooms today?
To pick up on what I was saying at the beginning about the famous split between scientists and literary people, I think it has served the cause of science education in general in schools. Because today's primary school teachers mainly come from a literary background, and some may have a reduced attraction to this subject (and this does not prevent them from practicing it). Had it been otherwise, I am convinced that we would see more spontaneous experimentation in the classrooms. For although science is on the curriculum of the French National Education system, the theme of climate change is not clearly addressed. Only a year ago, the Higher Curriculum Council decided to consider a stronger, more concrete support of climate science in the pedagogical sequences; and their conclusions are still too superficial because they are non-existent in the curricula and in the schools. Otherwise, it is up to the teacher to generate sequences, or exploit resources to address the topic in the classroom.
How best to teach about climate change? What pedagogical approaches and practices are most appropriate for implementing climate change education?
Climate change is something that can be experienced in the classroom, but not as easily as topics such as miscibility, lung ventilation, or heliocentrism. In order to teach it, Cycle 3 can experiment and manipulate it by relying on documentary research to find viable solutions, to be experimented and concretized with the support of cities, for example. In the previous cycles, the work would be around a permanent and constructive awareness, which will have to take up the flaws of our daily practices. While keeping the investigative approach specific to the sciences, it is necessary to establish a problem so that the hypotheses can emerge and the experiments to prove them can be carried out. The teacher is there to generate these problematics, because it is his responsibility to guide the class group towards a theme of the program to be worked on.
What should we continue to do?
We can wait for the CSP studies, and adaptations from the Ministry. But again, it seems to me that it is up to us to be able to make a difference where we are. So we need to draw on exploitable scientific resources to study them in the classroom.
Above all, we must continue to raise awareness among families. The pilot center that I am supervising is the result of a tripartite contract between the City of Montreuil, the French Ministry of Education, and the science popularization foundation La main à la pâte. Thanks to these pilot centers, our ambition is to develop the wishes of Charpak, Nobel Prize winner in 1995, to whom we owe the creation of the foundation. One of them was to generate a link between the school and the families. For who better than our students could communicate our practices to the outside world? Science has this capacity to allow manipulation and explanation. They are not meant to remain isolated, but to be disseminated and shared. This is why I would like to revive the science festival in the city of Montreuil. Of course, experimentation and manipulation are supposed to be present during these times of sharing, but the exceptional health crisis that we are going through will temporarily overwhelm them. However, there are plenty of ways to transmit knowledge, and we will get there. It will be an adaptation 2.0, the time to revive a panel of sensitizations to climate change and the various experiments that can be carried out at all ages.
You wish to revive the Montreuil Science Festival which takes place in April/May and which has not existed for a number of years. In your opinion, how can initiatives such as this one, or initiatives such as World Education Week (November 16-20, 2020) or World Climate Day (December 8) be useful for climate change education?
All national, public or school time allocated for climate change science has the ambition to share discoveries, to raise awareness and thus, greater responsibility. Discoveries that, of course, go hand in hand with the need to plan a more serene future. But these days spent disseminating this knowledge should not be isolated, hence the need to integrate them distinctly into school curricula in my opinion. Especially since sometimes the strength of some of these events comes from the fact that children are actors of their solutions, proposing them to the general public. Knowing is essential, acting is inevitable: the student must feel like an actor of his solutions.
What else needs to be done? What opportunities do you see in climate change education? What could your school do to increase the effectiveness of climate change education?
Education has often been the mainstay of societal crises, and today more than ever we are going through the biggest one. Starting from all this, we can generate a mobilization to relieve the planet, for example by drawing inspiration from everything we have had to put in place to adapt our jobs to the Covid-19 health crisis. School is a pivotal element, but the adult behind the class group is stronger by acting together.
This is why, pooling our knowledge as we do with our pilot centers and in the Montreuil science school can only accentuate this wave of upheaval which will bring, I am sure, a change in our habits. All this brings us daily observations, solutions to consider and test.
The urgency now is to learn to live with the damage caused by mankind, and to generate schemes to reduce it. By influencing a capacity of investigation and reflection in the students, we program for the future adults capable of acting for a reality.