Turkey's first climate and environmental education using systems thinking began

September 29, 2021

The programme which applies systems thinking as a methodology on climate change and environmental issues and utilizes a simulation game known as “World Climate” as an educational tool, is implemented for the first time in Turkey.

Being the first of its kind in Turkey, the programme which transforms climate change and environmental issues into education modules through systems thinking and simulation, began with the support of UNDP Turkey Accelerator Lab.

The programme which applies systems thinking as a methodology on climate change and environmental issues and utilizes a simulation game known as “World Climate” as an educational tool, is implemented for the first time in Turkey. It began at the end of September with the participation of eighth grade students at Darussafaka Secondary School in Istanbul.

Systems Thinking Association, Darussafaka Schools and Bogazici University, which are the implementing partners of the new initiative supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Accelerator Lab Turkey, provide students with a learning experience where they can understand the structure and functioning of the climate system for the first time in Turkey. The project is expected to provide a simulation environment where students can role play as a decision maker in policy development regarding climate crisis and action.

The aim of this initiative is to raise awareness and offer solutions to global problems, including climate change, through environmental education. The initiative aims to show that the climate problem is also a problem of inequality and that sustainable solutions can only be achieved with a holistic perspective.

Accelerator Lab Turkey's initiative will guide discussions on the future by adopting a decision-making simulation and systems thinking method in education, which was awarded in the Lab’s recent UNDP Social Innovation Challenge and is being piloted.

Systems thinking, which offers a new language in understanding how the world works, enables us to see the parts of the whole and the network of relationships simultaneously. Systems thinking also tries to reveal the structure that creates change by questioning how events occur over time. Thus, it supports the formation of a holistic perspective instead of promoting silo thinking.

According to UNDP Turkey Accelerator Lab’s Head of Exploration Gokce Tuna “Systems thinking is an essential tool for understanding and taking action in relation to the climate crisis.” She further added that “What needs to be done in order to overcome the obstacles to the mainstreaming of this tool is to develop this approach at a young age. For this reason, we want to support inclusion of systems thinking and climate and environmental education in the curriculum.”

The first training at Darussafaka Secondary School started as an after-school activity and will continue until December. On completion, the initiative will share its results and the training programme designed in the field of climate change with educators and education researchers.

“We want to ensure that systems thinking education, which we developed under the guidance of the Systems Thinking Association last year, is widely used in our school and applied in different disciplines.” said Darussafaka Schools Research and Development Coordinator Meltem Ceylan Alibeyoglu. “We aim to promote this programme on climate change in the whole country in the long run, together with our partners.” she added.

In the first phase of the three-part training, the size, changes and relations of population, migration, economy and greenhouse gas emissions will be examined at both country and global levels by using systems thinking tools.

In the second part, students will play the "World Climate" simulation game developed by Climate Interactive and adapted into Turkish in cooperation with the System Thinking Association and Change for Climate. The simulation game is an in-person role-playing exercise of the UN climate change negotiations.

In the third and final part of the programme, a comprehensive training on climate change will be given and the problems will be analysed within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The purpose of this part, in which systems thinking tools will be used, is to see the foundational structures that create the problem.

“The problem of climate change is not just an environmental one and it is not possible to solve it solely with an isolated approach.” said Emre Goktepe, Chairman of the Systems Thinking Association. "To transform into sustainable societies, it is imperative that not only policymakers but also individuals and groups become systems thinkers." he added.

Bogazici University Faculty Member Dr. Gaye Defne Ceyhan MacLellan also added that, “With this initiative, we aim to create a simulation environment where secondary school students can understand the complex nature of climate change through systems thinking and evaluate its economic, social and political dimensions with the World Climate game. We think that the study will set an example for data-based decision-making processes in the field of education.”

As we enter the last nine years to meet the SDGs adopted by world leaders in 2015, integrating climate action, which is among its goals, into education systems is one of the critical steps for achieving sustainable development. Understanding the causes of climate change, the interactions between different factors and their effects forms the basis of developing a holistic perspective to solve one of the biggest problems of our time, the climate crisis.