How to cultivate environmental awareness in schools
Several years ago I was lucky enough to teach a group of vibrant nine to 13-year-olds. I was surprised at how observant kids in this age group are. On 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, the children were 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 when we learn new concepts the quickest. If both adults and children are exposed to a new language, the children are more likely than the adults to speak this new language with ease. Indeed, 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 this definition of a school, it is fair to say that schools have a responsibility towards our future leaders. This involves not only teaching them how to count, spell, read and write, but enshrining environmental awareness in them from an early age. 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. This is particularly important, given the increasing environmental challenges we are facing, 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 early. Environmental awareness should be part of school curriculums and all schools can learn something from the Echo-Schools Initiative.
- This global initiative began in 1994 and encourages young people to engage in their environment to protect it.
- They have helped establish environmental education programmes in schools in 68 countries.
- As of 2017, the programme had reached 19 million students.
In one such school, Tarkington Elementary School in Chicago, teacher Steven Cota has a hands-on teaching style when it comes to showing learners how to be environmentally responsible. For example, Cota shows children how 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 three 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 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 encourage the children to practise at home. It is little use if children use water sparingly at school, but leave taps dripping at home. These steps will help produce kids who are more knowledgeable about environmental issues.
So let’s get teaching! Let’s provide these information sponges with useful information about environmental awareness, so that goodness can overflow into all the world!
GVI is an international award-winning volunteer organisation. Learn about how we encourage environmental education on our teaching, community development, wildlife and marine conservation programs around the world.
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