My Story as a Environmental Educator

Susan Adams

I am an environmentalist and educator in conservation and climate change. My interest in wildlife and conservation has come from Ireland’s natural beauty and wildlife, my zoo career and from worldwide travel.

Inspired I began to wonder about the role of environmental education in schools as a solution to turning the tide on how we see and deal with our current environment and climate crisis. I have 4 children and I felt that young people weren’t connected with what was happening around them in the context of the environment. They knew the facts; climate change is across the curriculum. They had seen the devastating scenes of towns and cites being ripped to shreds as storms, hurricanes, droughts and fires tore through peoples lives.
susan Adams getting awarded

They heard the headlines about species going extinct on a daily basis. and yet there was a real disconnect between the information and the emotion. It was like these concepts were just too big for them to take on and they felt that they had no control or power to act and do something about it. I didn’t understand the blasé attitude I was coming across when talking to young people and I soon discovered that the reason for it was because they thought that they couldn’t do anything about it, they thought that they were too young, that they had no voice and that it was up to governments not them.

As a reflex to this I decided to open a new dialogue that included young people in schools being a part of the solution in a practical and active way. I wanted to develop attitudes informed by understanding of social and environmental issues from a local to global scale and to bridge the void between the information and the emotion and to give young people the opportunity to take responsibility on environmental issues across the board, from animal extinction to climate change to the plastic crisis and everything in between. It was my mission to develop a education programme that would inspire young people to act and to tell them that they had a choice and I wanted to emotionally connect them with the environment and to inspire them to care enough to do something about it. I wanted them to be the change that they wanted to see and to grow up in a world they created not a world that they just accepted. For that we have to educate them on how to life sustainable and show them how they can change the world.

With this in mind, I devised a plan to use schools as a launchpad towards the next higher level of ambition and to reframe these crises to include a level of emotion so that these young people would be the transitional generation that would have the tools and the knowledge to act for a better and fairer world for all of our inhabitants.

Using my academic and work experience I designed a teaching plan linking schools to their community as I believed that none of the realities that we are now facing, can be solved by one individual alone, that it is only by people and communities working together that we can begin to repair the damages that the world is now living. The backbone of the programme was that students would be given the opportunity to develop local responses to global challenges while actively engaging in resilience initiatives and the seeds of possibility with infinite. I felt that only by educating people to a true solidarity of our global community that we will be able to overcome the culture of waste translating the science between actions.

I am passionate and highly motivated. Delivering a rapid environmental call to action, I design and deliver structured education sustainability programmes in primary and secondary schools that are linked to the curriculum. My programme engages students to come up with ideas that affect them locally and that are linked on an international and global scale.

The Susan Adams Education for Sustainability programme also engages students to develop an action project that is important to them, enabling them to connect with their local community using land-based learning methodologies.

In 2017, I was awarded Eco Unesco Leader of the Year for my work in schools leading young people to make a direct impact on their environment. Newpark Comprehensive School, Blackrock and Kill O’ The Grange NS, Deansgrange won awards for their environmental projects in the Young Environmentalist Awards in 2017 under my sustainability programme. Newpark Comprehensive School led the way in 2018 to become Ireland’s first single use plastic free school under my leadership as as a direct result of the programme. I spoke about the power of young people taking action at TEDX Ballybofey in County Donegal in 2018.

I live in Dublin with my children, husband and my dog. We spend our weekends outside enjoying nature cycling and swimming in the sea.