Part 1: Big Issue of Sustainability
Disconnection with Nature

Whilst there are many issues that need to be addressed so that we and future generations can live sustainably on planet Earth, they are all connected, just as everything on the planet is, connected. It is through a forgetting of this connection that humanity has allowed us to do what we have done to this planet. Disconnection to the natural world, a feeling of human superiority over all other life on the planet, be it flora or fauna. For too long we have compartmentalised our lives and we continue to compartmentalise when we talk of, plastic in the oceans, de-forestation, and global warming as separate issues. Linear thinking has removed us from the understanding that we are Nature. “Everything we are and can ever be is dependent upon this great, verdant, fertile, sensitive, intricately interwoven web of life.” (Macy 2021)

The issues of Sustainability are big, big issues and the power that primary school students have, pales in comparison. It is all too easy to feel overwhelmed, dis-empowered and succumb to eco-anxiety (Leimbach, Kent, Walker,  & Allen, 2020) with the reality of the future that is predicted for planet Earth. To combat eco-anxiety and approach Education for Sustainability from a place of hope I am choosing to focus of dis-connection becoming connection. I strongly believe that in order to make the big changes necessary for a sustainable future we need to re-connect with nature and look at the world through a holistic lens. To look at the world as an interconnected web of systems; eco-system, political and economic systems has been identified as Systems Thinking. This Systems thinking has been identified by the United Nations as a core competency in Education for Sustainability (Hunter 2018) and has filtered through to The Australian Curriculums’ Cross Curriculum Priority of Suitability stating it is a fundamental to education in Australia “understanding the ways social, economic and environmental systems interact to support and maintain human life” (ACARA 2022)

Systems thinking understands connection as a crucial element of life on Earth and essential to the goals of Education for Sustainability and the continued future capacity for the Earth to sustain life. However, Systems thinking has also been noted as a complex idea to teach and learn. (Green, Molloy & Duggan 2021) Using an inquiry-based approach provides a solution to these complexities as due to “its potential to enhance intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding through the development of hands-on, mind-engaged and research-based… teaching and learning” (Gilbert, Tudball & Brett 2020:324)

Inquiry-based learning also fits extremely well with arts-based learning as artists are inquirers. The Arts are meaning-making experiences that nurtures a student’s curiosity and values student’s explorations and newfound understandings. (Dinham 2020:32) Combining the Arts and Sustainability through Inquiry has the power for students to develop deep understanding of their connections to the rest of the world including nature and from here develop their sense of hope for a different, empowered future.

Inquiry Questions around Sustainability and Disconnection from Nature

Why are people so disconnected from Nature?

Why don’t people understand that we are Nature?

What would help people understand we are/it is all connected?

How can we inspire an emotional response to Nature in people?

What would give students a feeling of hope for the future?