Friday, May 04, 2018

How to Teach Children About Sustainability and Climate Change

[While debate on various environmental topics rages on in our nation's capital, a new generation is out there that -- we all hope -- can bring positive change.  Emily Folk takes a look at how to teach children about sustainability and climate change.]

If you teach a child about the importance of sustaining the planet for the long term from the time they are young, then worries about climate change will lessen. Greenhouse gas levels are higher than they've been in 800,000 years
Whether this is from natural causes, human impact, or a combination of both remains debatable.  [Editor’s note: The National Academy of Sciences has concluded that climate change ‘is largely caused by human activities.” ]

However, the truth is that making children aware of the importance of being good to the earth and protecting the environment for future generations is a positive move. 
However, climate change is a difficult topic to understand. Even adults with advanced degrees differ in their opinions on what causes climate change, how fast it occurs, and what to do about it. Fortunately, there are some simple, age-appropriate things you can do to teach your child about sustainability.
1. Play Games
As with any learning task, playing games engages children’s imagination and helps them learn facts. Very young children can simply learn basic facts about the environment, while older kids can dig into the science behind greenhouse gases, the ozone layer and other more advanced concepts. There are both digital and board games on the market, or make your own game that teaches the facts you most want to pass on to your child. 
2. Engage Students through Technology
Generation Z loves technology, so figure out ways to integrate technology with conservation efforts. One example would be showing kids how drones are being used to help with conservation efforts. Oceanographic remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) allow the younger generation to get a glimpse of the ocean without the requirement of scuba diving. The use of technology is fresh and exciting and helps students care about the world around them.
3. Teach about the Earth
For very young children, aged two to five, take the time to explain that we share earth with plants and animals and everything works together to help the other. Take a nature hike and point out how the trees provide oxygen that humans breathe or the bees pollinate the flowers so they grow. Older children can appreciate the more complex ways humans impact nature.
4. Volunteer to Help
A simple way to make a difference and teach your child to worry about the environment is to volunteer as a family. For example, if your local community has a beautification day where they plant trees and flowers, join in. Join a wildlife refuge or wild bird sanctuary. Volunteer to plant trees in your neighborhood or a local park.
5. Visit a Museum or Park
Do you have a state or national park near where you live? There are typically any number of activities that will teach the importance of protecting the great outdoors. State parks might have guided tours that teach about the wildlife and plants native to the area. You will also find on-site museums and park rangers willing to answer questions. 
6. Start a Community Garden
One way to teach children about sustainability is to teach them to grow their own food without the use of chemicals or pesticides. Start a community garden in your neighborhood and explain how to grow food organically and why it is important both for human health and so that chemicals aren’t released into the local streams. In addition, you can talk about water conservation and recycling unused food into compost. 
Teaching Sustainability
Teaching children about sustainability isn’t something that happens in a single lesson. If you make protecting the environment part of your overall lifestyle, your child will begin to learn why it is important to reduce their carbon footprint and naturally be aware of how to live an eco-friendly life. 

Emily Folk is a freelance writer and blogger, covering topics in conservation, sustainability and renewable energy. To see her latest posts, check out her blog Conservation Folks, or follow her on Twitter!

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