What is the Anthropocene Education Program?

An•thro•po•cene
(n) The proposed current geological epoch, in which humans are the primary cause of permanent planetary change. From anthro (or anthropos in Ancient Greek), for “human,” and cene (or kainos in Ancient Greek), for “recent”.

The science

In 2000, Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer used the term “Anthropocene” to propose the beginning of a new geological epoch, in which humans are the primary cause of unprecedented and permanent planetary change. Since then, the term has increasingly been used informally in scientific circles and in popular culture.

In 2009, the Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy tasked a committee of scientists to gather and review scientific evidence and put forth a recommendation on whether or not the proposed Anthropocene should officially be adopted by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS). THe IUGS is the leading organization responsible for the study of geological phenomena and the dissemination of official geologic guidelines used by all Earth scientists.

The scientific committee, which became known as the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), proposed the start date for the Anthropocene to be the mid-20th century, and the global marker to be the radioactive elements that dispersed in the atmosphere and collected in soils around the planet following nuclear bomb testing.

The AWG, as well as the greater scientific community, is awaiting the formal debate and ratification or rejection of this proposal by the IUGS.

The Program

Many students are unaware that common, everyday activities place a demand on nature. From buying and consuming food, to putting plastic packaging in the trash, to purchasing fast fashion clothing. Further, many students have little understanding of the scale and impacts of industrial land use operations such as digging, drilling and mining and man-made structures such as the Three Gorges Dam in China.

The Anthropocene Education Program presents an opportunity for students to learn the history and science behind the Anthropocene and understand just how much humans are changing Earth’s natural systems. To this end, the Program incorporates immersive technology such as augmented and virtual reality, and new media such as interactive art and film. Students will be taken on a one-of-a-kind journey that encourages a thoughtful understanding of different human-environment interactions around the world.

Accessibility

An emphasis has been placed on accessible, online materials, meaning this Program can be used by students in the classroom and at home. The Program is designed for Canadian students in grades 4-12 and covers a range of topics including climate change, species extinction, terraforming and bioaccumulation of microplastics. All lessons come with modifications that make each topic relevant to primary, intermediate and secondary students.

Visit the Online Resources page to explore the resources that are freely accessible to the public. Visit the Book a free classroom kit page to see how members of Canadian Geographic Education can access additional online resources or book a free classroom kit for a three-week period during the school year.

Staying informed

Canadian educators can become a member of Canadian Geographic Education to receive a monthly e-newsletter that covers the latest news about the Program as well as other educational initiatives.

Founding partners

The Anthropocene Education Program was developed by:

With the financial support of: