From idleness, deceleration and a longing for nature to STEM Education for Sustainable Development – I’ve come a long way. A yearning for a more sustainable future, and my first early childhood experiences were my motivation and base to act more sustainably and responsibly. I truly believe that my grandmother and her garden paved the way.
I grew up in the Sauerland, a rural region in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. My family had a large garden with plenty of space for growing our own vegetables. At a very early age, I was given my first little beds, and my grandmother taught me the basics of planting: when and how to sow seeds; how to cultivate the soil properly; and, most importantly from my grandmother’s point of view, how to grow potatoes.
As a student, my childhood memories of these self-sufficient times came back to me, and I began to read tons of books on planting, especially on creative and sustainable approaches to cultivating land. Myself and two friends were hooked. We rented a plot of land at a “bauerngarten” – a cottage garden where people are allotted parts of a field, which are cultivated according to ecological principles – and started to grow vegetables.
At the beginning, our main mission was to tackle the weeds. Once this was done, we planted our first seedlings – for example, tomatoes, paprika and cucumbers. At the end of May we were finally able to harvest our first vegetables – spinach, salad and radishes. We are now harvesting courgettes, mangolds, and cabbages; soon the first potatoes will be ready for harvesting. Our harvest has been plentiful, and vegetables are no longer on our regular shopping list.
With a new perspective on sustainability, I felt I had to do more
Nonetheless, my own little garden wasn’t enough to satisfy my desire to act in a more sustainable way – I felt I had to do more. Working at the “Haus der kleinen Forscher” Foundation in Berlin has given me a new perspective on sustainability. It has made me realise that the ecological component of the principle of sustainability is not enough, and that the economic and social components should be taken into consideration to the same extent.
With time, it has become clear to me how important it is not only to take responsibility for one’s own actions but also to empower others to think and act in a more sustainable way. Thus, I want to contribute to shaping children’s future in such a way that future generations will find a world worth living in.
At the moment, we are in the process of preparing an international conference. Its mission is to position STEM education as a strategy to enhance young children’s capabilities to create sustainable societies in the 21st century. All over the world, there are very different views on how to be sustainable and what sustainability means to each one of us. That’s why it’s so important to remain in dialogue on the importance of facing global challenges together.