Miriam Leirós started a blog three years ago to tell about her activities in class and today she leads a movement where more than 2,000 schools participate.
This primary school teacher from a small municipality on the outskirts of Vigo, CEIP Antonio Palacios de O Porriño, is behind Teachers for Future Spain, the teachers association that has integrated Greta Thunberg’s ideas against climate change.
Leirós did not imagine that it would arouse so much interest in such different centers. They receive messages from public, private and concerted Catholic schools. To the point that today, he admits, they do not rest for a job they do in their spare time. “There is more and more interest and we see many people wanting to do something,” he says. “But in the end we are already aware teachers and we depend on the hours we can dedicate.”
Environmental education, one of the tools to understand the climate crisis and seek creative solutions for the future, is still absent in the formal education of minors. Sera Huertas, a technician at the Valencian Community Environmental Education Center, explains that the curriculum does not include it in a transversal way. So there is a paradox: in schools and institutes one finds a lot of enthusiasm and enthusiasm on the part of teachers and students, but the academic program does not reflect the importance of climate change and the environment.
Patricia Ibarra, another of the teachers who cooperates in Teachers for Future from the Ciudad de Nejapa public school, in the Madrid town of Tres Cantos, explains that, despite the effort, everyone agrees that it is worth it. In his opinion, many of those who participate in the activities they propose are people who for a long time wanted to take another step but did not know how. “Some felt like the weirdos of school, the pesky ones who were always remembering about plastics or the need to reduce the cost of paper, so joining, even through the networks, provides them with a kind of support and makes them feel best”.
Something similar tells Juan Ignacio Cubero, a teacher at the Los Castillos de Alcorcón institute who has been working to energize the school for more than 20 years. For him, in recent years there has been a change in opinion and now worrying about environmental issues is better seen. But sometimes, he confesses, it is not easy. “I think of those cathedrals that started in the 13th century. Those who built them could never see them finished. But each one put his stone, slowly, all together, and now after so many years they are still standing ”.
All these teachers, and those in many other centers, are the ones who are in charge of telling children how we can act to face the changes that scientists announce to us. From them, and from some parents, ideas often come out to connect students with nature and explain their responsibility to the environment and to discover the possibilities they have to transform it.
“The new LOMLOE system opens an important door to teaching sustainability”, explains Miriam Leirós by phone when talking about the future, “but it will depend on how the autonomous communities apply it”. Meanwhile, there is little training on these topics for teachers facing a growing bureaucratic to-do list with the pandemic. “Even for something that could be as useful as teaching abroad,” he says, “you have to fill out multiple papers and authorizations.”
“With the resources available and the circumstances of the teacher, much more is done than we think”, clarifies the expert Sera Huertas. “But we cannot stay with the activities we did 25 years ago. We have to go a couple of steps further ”.
To do this, proposes this expert, they should gradually integrate renewable energies, have parking spaces for bicycles and scooters, promote dining rooms with ecological and local products and re-naturalize spaces. “For a long time the patios were covered with cement and concrete, and then a roof was added to protect from the sun,” he continues. “Now we would have to follow the reverse process and create areas with native trees and plants again. Not only to mitigate the heat but also because many studies show that it reduces pollution.
Juan Ignacio Cubero is also convinced of the importance of green spaces. He proudly displays the large landscaped courtyard in which his students can run. They have fir, chestnut, lime, eucalyptus, pine, ash, plane trees, and a colony of house sparrows and millers that, along with the magpies, do the cleaning work when the children finish recess. “Changing habits is the most difficult thing there is because it takes a lot of effort and is slow,” he says as he picks up several balls of silver foil and a couple of juice cartons on the floor. “We all think it’s good to take care of the planet, but nobody wants to give up anything.”