This presentation describes the milestones of four decades of Earth Science Education (ESE) research. It will describe the evolution of the ESE Group in the Department of Science Teaching at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel. This evolution is derived from dozens of quantitative and qualitative studies and channeled into the holistic earth systems educational approach that incorporates integration of the outdoor learning environment as a central component of the learning sequence, a model for the integration of learning environments, the development of environmental insight through a holistic earth systems approach; development of a layered systems thinking model; and the notion of learning as an instinct. Integration of these components led to the development of the learning instinct theory, which contradicts the essentialist–reductionist paradigm, which still dominates universities and schools worldwide.
The holistic Earth systems approach is an effective platform for developing environmental insight. However, the low status of ESE in schools worldwide prevents the educational treatment needed to reduce environmental crises. Thus, climate change is an educational crisis. It results from the continuing failure of the environmental education paradigm that ignores the Earth systems and environmental insight approach.
The climate crisis should have been a turning point in raising the awareness of Earth Sciences as a scientific discipline and the importance of raising the profile of Earth science teaching in schools.
The academic geoscience community is a keystone for bridging the disturbing gap between the importance of Earth science to humanity and its low profile in schools worldwide.