How To Cultivate Environmental Awareness In Schools
A few years ago I was in the fortunate position of teaching a bunch of vibrant 9 to 13-year-olds. I was surprised at how observant kids in this age group are; more than one morning I was greeted with a hug or friendly smile and a “Miss, I like your green dress. Is it new?” Apart from being observant, they are also quite inquisitive and always ready with a “why” or “how” when being taught something new.
The first few years of a person’s life is the time in which we learn new concepts the quickest. If adults and children were exposed to a new language, children would more likely be able to speak this new language easier and more naturally than an adult. When studying the brain, I recall my own biology teachers saying, “a child’s brain is like a sponge, it soaks up all the information it receives.”
School: a centre of learning, an institution for educating children
If we look at the definition of a school I suppose it would only be fair to say that schools have a responsibility towards our future leaders to, not only teach them how to count, spell, read and write, but also about environmental awareness. We have gathered a few ideas on how to cultivate environmental awareness in schools.
What is Environmental Awareness?
‘Environmental Awareness’ is pretty self-explanatory; it is about being aware of the environment. The environment refers to all flora and fauna, including all marine and wildlife areas. Planet Earth faces an increasing number of environmental challenges, including:
• climate change
• global warming
• water scarcity
Being aware of these issues and making beneficial lifestyle changes accordingly is what environmental awareness is about.
Practical Tips For Schools
In order to raise awareness around environmental issues, it is vital to start the conversation. Environmental Awareness should be part of school curriculums and all schools can learn something from the Echo-Schools Initiative.
• This fundamental initiative encourages young people to engage in their environment to protect it
• They have helped over 49,000 schools in about 62 countries to be more environmentally aware
Tarkington Elementary School in Chicago in the United States has an excellent plan in place to be environmentally responsible. Steven Cota, a teacher at this school has a hands-on teaching style and allows children to separate their own trash to identify if it’s recyclable or not. Here are some practical tips to do the same:
• Teach children about the 3 R’s: reduce waste, reuse resources, and recycle materials
• Organise tree planting days at school and tell children why trees are important to the environment
• Encourage children to switch off all appliances and lights when not in use
• Ensure taps are closed properly after you have used them and use water sparingly
Lead By Example
We are more likely to remember the things people did than what they said. Although teaching children about what it means to be environmentally aware is important, it will have more of a lasting impact on them when you lead by example.
• So, teachers, when you see litter, pick it up even if it’s not yours, you never know which pair of little eyes might be watching you
• Get a recycling system going in your classroom and show the children how to use it
Spread The Word
Schools should encourage children to share their environmental knowledge with their friends and family. A good idea would be to let the children practice at home; no use if they use water sparingly at school, but leave taps dripping at home. These steps will produce kids who are more knowledgeable about environmental issues.
Let’s get teaching! Let’s give the little sponges useful information about environmental awareness so that the goodness can overflow into all the world!
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