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Teachers demand better resources to help tackle growing environmental anxiety amongst students

Half of teachers (53%) report eco-anxiety is rising in their students, a survey conducted for sustainable seafood ecolabel, the Marine Stewardship Council, has discovered. Conducted in partnership with Sealife and Eco-Schools, the independent survey examined teachers’ attitudes to sustainability education.

The results, released ahead of World Mental Health Day (10 October), show teachers want to do more to help students take an active role in tackling their concerns about the environment but don’t feel equipped to teach ocean conservation and sustainability. 

Eight in ten (83%) teachers feel they have a role to play in supporting young people to take action on ocean sustainability, but fewer than two in 10 (18%) say they have the resources they need to do this in the classroom and 6 in 10 (60%) teachers agree key issues such as ocean sustainability don’t get enough attention in the curriculum.

As part of its mission to build young people’s ocean literacy, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) provides free ocean-themed teaching materials for teachers and parents. The teaching materials cover geography and science subjects and include topics on ocean sustainability, the marine ecosystem, food chains, the global fish trade and food security. 

Encouragingly, the majority of students (74%) are keen to learn more about ocean sustainability issues, despite teachers’ worry that students do not understand (65%) the topic. 

The survey of more than 1,300 UK primary and secondary school teachers, was carried out with the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) between 13-18 March just before schools began to close due to Covid-related restrictions. 

Eco-Schools Manager, Lee Wray-Davies said: “It’s clear that anxiety about the environment is growing among young people. Teachers know they can have a positive impact in helping young people navigate their concerns by keeping them informed and by showing them there are positives steps they can take as individuals both locally and globally. 

“A higher proportion of schools applied for their Eco-Schools Green Flag during April-July 2020 than during the same time last year, showing that even a global pandemic can’t stop an Eco-School!

“As a former Geography and Environmental Science teacher I find it worrying that teachers feel that they do not have the resources they need to teach and discuss ocean conservation and sustainability. Ocean sustainability encompasses many different subject areas and concepts, and teachers need a variety of high-quality resources - particularly on issues like overfishing, biodiversity and food webs, and the future of our food.” 

Marine Stewardship Council Education Curriculum Specialist, Kate Jones, said: 
“Young people were already anxious about the environmental challenges facing us, before their lives were disrupted by COVID-19. Teachers can play an important part in young people’s lives, teaching the next generation so that they are empowered to make sustainable choices. 

“The oceans feed 3 billion people, regulate the climate and provide livelihoods to millions but they are under triple threat from pollution, climate change and overfishing. Four in five teachers feel their school could do more to help young people take an active role in tackling these issues. A simple way to do this is to encourage students to choose sustainable seafood, such as products that carry the blue MSC label, as this protects and conserves marine life, livelihoods and seafood for future generations.” 

Activities for teachers and parents to try:
1. Home school on ocean health using these resources
2. Play these games and activities
3. Watch the award-winning short film ‘My dad the fisherman’ 
4. Unwind with these colouring activities of sea creatures which can be therapeutic 
5. Try these tinned fish recipes with sustainable seafood
6. Follow these simple tips to help the oceans from your kitchen 
7. Follow these 360 fishing boat tours of fishers at sea