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Empowering K-12 students and teachers to navigate negative eco-emotions effectively

Lead by:  Jennifer Dobai, PhD student, Community Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Research Associate at VERiS

Supervisor: Dr. Manuel Riemer, Department of Psychology, Wilfrid Laurier University, Director at VERiS

Partner: Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF)

Funding: Mitacs Accelerate and Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF)

Rationale and Objectives
The escalating environmental challenges of recent years underscore the critical need for proactive action on climate change and sustainability. However, the mental health impacts, particularly negative eco-emotions (e.g., eco-anxiety, eco-anger, eco-grief), experienced by children and youth due to climate-related concerns pose significant barriers to climate action engagement, resilience, and wellbeing. This project aims to address this gap by empowering K-12 students and teachers with knowledge, skills, and coping mechanisms to navigate these challenges effectively. In partnership with Learning for a Sustainable Future (LSF), a non-profit Canadian organization dedicated to integrating sustainability education into Canada's education system, the project will review existing approaches to managing negative eco-emotions within a school context, focusing on children and youth. Additionally, it will develop a set of resources and recommendations to guide K-12 educators in discussing climate emotions related to climate change curriculum. These resources will encourage resilience, coping strategies, climate activism, and civic engagement. The objectives include conducting a literature review on current approaches to eco-emotions and creating resources for educators, using Design Science Research Methodology and systems thinking.

What’s Happening
The project involves co-designing a set of resources informed by evidence-based practices identified in a literature review and the expertise of LSF practitioners. These resources will apply LSF's seven key interconnected learning strategies to ensure alignment with the organization's mission, goals, and values. The resources will be developed for four different grade levels (K-2, 3-6, 7-8, 9-12) and cover themes such as understanding eco-emotions, intersectionality, systemic factors, resilience and coping strategies, and youth activism. Additionally, a workshop for educators will be developed, including slides and materials to help them integrate the resources into existing curricula and effectively engage with eco-emotions. The outcomes and resources will be disseminated through LSF’s networks, enhancing sustainability education across Canada and strengthening LSF’s leadership in promoting sustainable development education.

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