Getting Small Kids into Environmental Awareness
A couple of days ago we were at a birthday party, which took place at a local Nature Center. Besides the fun my kids had there, I got the idea of summarizing some of the things that help getting kids into environmentally friendly behavior. A party can of course be a great way to reach a bunch of three to six year old kids at the same time and teach them something the fun way.
The first lesson they experienced was a very important one, namely to treat nature and all creatures with respect. After a detailed and very interesting briefing by the program coordinator, they were handed over nets and insect jars. Right away the message was, catch grasshoppers and other bugs carefully, try not to hurt them and at the end of it, the critters will go back to freedom. This message is important but is too many times not being delivered by parents: respect nature and all animals, even worms and bugs. Try to do no harm, leave it as or better than you found it.
- Environmental Education in Montessori
Responsibility and respect provide a sound foundation for generating environmental awareness and understanding the importance of sustainability in any educational system.
Reuse the fun way
As another age appropriate activity they were making bugs out of all sorts of reused material. There were containers full of corks, popsicles, cut egg cartons (single or more cups), and packaging material like foam peanut, which give lots of nice options for bug bodies. Skeleton leaves or feathers make perfect wings, small twigs can be used for the feelers. Pipe cleaners and pom poms added a little bit of color of course. The point here is to show them how materials should and can be reused in a fun way. Try not to buy all new arts and crafts supply. Collecting materials like popsicles, empty paper rolls, plastic bottles of all sizes and bottle caps, bubble wrap, all sort of old packaging material is fun itself, kids love to do something useful and creative. Hubpages is a great resource for craft ideas with reused materials.
Reusing leads me to another suggestion. Both of my kids love to draw. They love it so much, they could easily use up 20 to 30 sheets of paper per day. Now what we agreed on is that they either use paper that has already been printed on one side, like scratch paper from our home office, or the backside of the colorful flyers and other mail that fills up our mailbox.
Another thing that always bugs me a little bit on birthday parties is the amount of trash that all those bottles, cans, paper plates, cups, etc., produce. Fortunately, I’ve seen it a couple of times that one very simple way is to let your guests know in advance if there is a water fountain available. Usually there always is, and it gives people the opportunity to bring their own bottle and refill it. One way to reduce plates and utensils is to make the cake out of cupcakes, seems to be less messy at certain ages, too. Cupcakes fit neatly in a napkin. Use finger food like small pizza slices, small sandwiches, chicken nuggets, spring rolls, etc.; the list is endless. In short, try to reduce the amount of waste you are producing.
Recycle with them
This brings me to the third of the three old ‘R’s, recycling. Show them where to recycle and where to put what. It helps to remind them and ourselves occasionally what happens to all the residual trash filling up the landfills – and we are back to respecting nature. If there is space for a composter (there are lots of compact models on the market) in your backyard, kids love to help take care of it and see things change – not to mention the earth worms. Walking the way to school, if possible (in our case it is an about ten minutes walk), is another very direct way to show them how to reduce exhaust fumes – and it’s healthy exercise.
Explore with them
Festivals are another perfect opportunity to show and explain things (if it comes from somebody else than the parent, kids sometimes tend to listen better:)). The Grow Hawaii Festival, dedicated to clean energy and sustainability through tradition, offered hands on activities even for little ones.
- Sustainability through local tradition – Arts and Crafts
Traditional and modern ways of sustainable living were shown in hands on activities.
Those few examples are just my two cents to Earth Day and the importance of its message. We need to teach our kids from an early age on, that they need to take better care of the planet than the generations before them. They are naturally interested in and connected with anything that has to do with nature and animals from an early age on, and the best way to support this is to get outside with them, show them and explain things. Almost all kids have that explorer spirit; they want to be useful, and be like little grown ups – be as good as a role model as you can be.