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Sustainability in Australian curriculum frameworks

Kallista is one of many schools which have developed a curriculum towards education for sustainability that is ostensibly taught through the kitchen garden programme. The challenge for Jennie and other educators who work in education for sustainability is to consider the kinds of education and educational experiences that might bring children closer to understanding the importance of sustaining the wellbeing of the planet and all who reside within it, human and non-human alike. Even though there is no specific sustainability curriculum to date in

Australia, the current emphasis on sustainability in schools has been mandated as a cross curriculum priority, whereby schools are expected to embed it within and across all curriculum disciplines (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2013). The subsequent inconsistency of implementation of sustainability curriculum has been identified extensively throughout the research literature and linked to a number of factors, which include the lack of teachers' conceptual understanding of sustainability, confusion about its multiple and varied definitions, the absence of specific sustainability curriculum and issues of poor professional development for teachers (Dyment, Hill, & Emery, 2014; Kennelly, Taylor, Maxwell, & Serow, 2012). While these issues continue to unfold, there is an increasing imperative to solidly bed down effective sustainability frameworks in primary schools that will assist schools to envisage what education for sustainability might look like.

As Stephen Sterling (2001, 2010) and others have argued (see for example Hawken, 2007; Edwards, 2006), the new line of sustainability thinking and practice required must entertain notions of what we might do without, and involves a preparedness to have less materially and make do with that. The dramatic cultural shift required from 'I want it all' to something more modest and 'good enough' is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Some might argue that such a confronting challenge is the primary responsibility of adults and not of children. Others, however (e.g. Orr, 2009), promote the importance of educators pursuing conversations and actions with children that involve telling the truth about the current predicament of a deteriorating planet that is spiralling towards major challenges such as climate change, rising temperatures and sea levels and plummeting biodiversity, all as a consequence of how Western societies have resourced exponential human development over the past two centuries. The challenges of facing and dealing with these realities, or indeed finding solutions and strategies to mitigate the damage to a changing planet, are squarely connected to the question posed in Chapter 1 that asked: how do we nurture human relations with local places, people, communities and with the ecological systems that support our wellbeing?

Like many of the children represented throughout this book, the children at Kallista primary school belong to a future generation which stands to inherit a failing world. Based on this reality, sustainability education is a vital field that should and must assist in preparing children and young people more broadly in coping with, managing and shaping social, economic and ecological conditions characterised by change, uncertainty, risk and complexity (Sterling, 2012, p. 9). The sustainability learning opportunities at Kallista provide an important and hopeful vision for the continued flourishing of the planet.

 
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