0.6.2 Support students’ motivation to learn about climate change while nurturing their psychological well being
Another very important aspect to consider is how you can support students’ motivation to learn about climate change while nurturing their psychological well being. In 2021 a study of thousands of 16- to 25-year-olds across 10 countries revealed that climate change and eco-anxiety is causing distress, anger and other negative emotions, including lack of sense of empowerment and agency regarding this threat, in children and young people worldwide (Thompson, 2021). Considering an overall rise in mental health problems, this finding is significant. How can you as an educator help ease the students’ minds and emotions regarding climate change?
Psychologist Maria Ojala (2018-19) explains that there are some usual coping patterns among young people regarding climate and eco-anxiety:
- a) de-emphasising or denying the threat (more common in boys);
- b) distancing themselves from negative emotions through distraction or avoidance;
- c) trying to individually do something in one’s own life to help solve the problem, e.g. stop eating meat (more common in girls).
According to Ojala’s research none of these strategies are particularly conducive to learning about climate change and they don’t promote engagement and wellbeing.
As a solution scientist Susan Folkman proposes fostering meaning-focused coping strategies, which research has shown to create more engagement and wellbeing (Ojala, 2018-19). One such strategy is positive re-appraisal, which is about being able to acknowledge the seriousness of the climate problem, but also being able to switch perspectives and see positive trends, no matter how small. Another meaning-focused strategy is trust, e.g. “[t]o have faith that other, more powerful, actors will also do their part can help young people to feel that their own engagement matters” (Ojala, 2018-19, pp. 13).
Another constructive strategy is prefigurative politics where people bring about societal change by creating alternative social relations and practices locally instead of confronting power structures directly, thus invoking hope within themselves that they can slowly erode the current, unsustainable order. This is related to working together as a community and collectively finding ways to engage in/with political decision-making or local actions (Ojala, 2018-19).
Image source: Canva (open source)
Think about the following questions and post your answer(s) to at least one of them into the forum. Comment on at least one other post. Mark “Complete” when done.
- Do you agree with psychologist Maria Ojala’s thoughts on how to deal with students’ climate and eco-anxiety (as read above)? Why or why not?
- How would you / do you as an educator help your students cope with climate anxiety?
- Watch the video below about people sharing their thoughts about climate anxiety. Are you experiencing similar anxieties regarding climate change? Why or why not?