Young people are a powerful source of social change and they have an important role to play in climate change responses. However, empowering young people to be “systems changers” is not straightforward. It is particularly challenging within educational systems that prioritize instrumental learning over critical thinking and creative actions.
History has shown that by creating novel spaces for reflexivity and experimentation, the arts have played a role in shifting mindsets and opening up new political horizons.
In the article ART FOR CHANGE: Transformative learning and youth empowerment in a changing climate, Julia Bentz and cCHANGE’s Karen O’Brien investigate how climate-related art projects in education can shift mindsets and open up imaginative spaces, where students can explore and discover their role in addressing climate change and sustainability challenges.
Through an experiment with art students at a school in Lisbon, Portugal, Bentz and O’Brien “explore the role of art as a driver for societal transformation in a changing climate and consider how an experiment with change can facilitate reflection on relationships between individual change and systems change.”
The results showed that a transformative learning approach that engages students with art can support critical thinking and climate change awareness, new perspectives and a sense of empowerment. Experiential, arts-based approaches also have the potential to create direct and indirect effects beyond the involved participants.
Bentz and O’Brien concluded that climate-related art projects can serve as more than a form of science communication. They represent a process of opening up imaginative spaces where audiences can move more freely and reconsider the role of humans as responsible beings with agency and a stake in sustainability transformations.
Bentz, J. and O’Brien, K., 2019. ART FOR CHANGE: Transformative learning and youth empowerment in a changing climate. Elem Sci Anth, 7(1), p.52. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.390
Read the open-access article here
Image credit: Bench Accounting, Unsplash