Kermit famously said ‘it’s not easy being green’, but kids seem to have a natural way of making environmental activism part of their everyday lives. Whether they’re rescuing a wayward snail or asking curly questions about why the sky is blue, our children can often teach us a thing or two about paying closer attention to nature.
If you can harness this natural curiosity and encourage children to appreciate the planet and take action to protect it, you’re empowering them to feel they can make a real difference to the world around them. From easy garden projects to little days out with a green twist, there are many ways to encourage kids to reduce, reuse and recycle – and have fun while they’re at it.
With issues like global warming, water conservation and pollution management regularly in the news, our children can’t fail to be aware that our world faces major environmental challenges. Even as an adult, warnings about climate change, biodiversity or finite resources can be frightening and confusing, making it essential for us to talk about the issues sensitively with our kids.
Luckily, while politicians toss the climate change football back and forth in the media, kids across Australia are still connecting with nature and learning practical ways to go green thanks to environmental education in schools, recycling programs by local councils and nature play initiatives. Queensland’s Sustainable Schools program, for example, rolls out resources for educators so they can lead by example, engaging students in water conservation projects, food production, and waste management in classrooms and playgrounds.
Environmental education, however, needs to go beyond the classroom. According to the Sustainable Schools website, each Australian family produces enough waste per year to fill a 3-bedroom house; that’s around 1.9 tonnes of waste per person. But the trouble with scary statistics like this is that they can feel so overwhelming that they numb us into inaction. Children can become depressed about the future of the planet when faced with ‘doom and gloom’ predictions about environmental disasters.
Queensland University of Technology (QUT) associate professor Julie Davis has written extensively about education on sustainability, with a focus on nurturing young children's capacities as agents of change. Julie says that making a child feel depressed or helpless is not good sustainability education. Rather, good teaching in this area should focus on positive, empowering opportunities to be “an active citizen for sustainability”; simple things like using the half flush in the toilet to save water can be explained to young children helping them feel engaged and empowered about ‘making a difference’.
Encourage your child to respect the planet – and have fun at the same time. After all, the future really is in their hands.
And this sort of education doesn’t just benefit the planet – there are real benefits for kids too. Julie says that kids “get short-term benefits such as feeling good about protecting and caring for the planet” along with beneficial longer-term education. “They are establishing foundations for sustainable habits and ways of thinking that contribute to their own more sustainable futures,” Julie says.
So, what can we do as parents to provide positive messages about environmental awareness and help our kids to grow up green?
One of the best lessons we can teach our kids is that environmental activism doesn’t have to mean making enormous personal sacrifices – and that little things add up to big changes. Kids can help out every day with small but significant adjustments to household routines that benefit the environment.
If you need a little extra inspiration, keep the environmental agenda in mind on your next family day out.
Lillian Shewring coordinates the workshops at Reverse Garbage Queensland, a not-for-profit co-operative that repurposes industrial discards. She says that the hands-on nature of her children’s art workshops helps kids to visualise and remember what they’ve learned about recycling, as well as helping them think outside the box when it comes to repurposing the stuff that some people think of as rubbish. “They get to make and construct things, get their hands dirty and make a bit of a mess, which is always great fun,” Lillian says. “I guess one of the main positive things that the kids take away from our classes is the realisation that sustainability, recycling and reusing materials is not something that is beyond their capacity. Actually they can easily do it at home, at school, anywhere really.”
By creating an awareness of environmental issues using positive, encouraging teaching approaches and hands-on activities, your child can learn to appreciate the planet and want to do more to protect it. Going green is good for the earth, but great for our kids too, who feel empowered by the chance to make a real difference.
For further information visit:
Sustainable Schools Queensland: www.sustainableschools.qld.edu.au | Queensland National Parks Connect With Nature Program: www.nprsr.qld.gov.au
The following locations offer environmental workshops and activities for kids throughout the year.
Sunshine Coast Council Nature Connections: www.community.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au | Kids In Action Conference: www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au