Written by Julie Niblett, Faculty Member of the New Earth University
On April 22nd, children in schools everywhere will be participating in activities to bring more awareness to the conservation and preservation of our planet Earth. Earth Day! Although having a specific day to celebrate the Earth is a step in the right direction, most people who see the constant mistreatment and destruction going on all around agree that much more should be done. What would happen if we focused some time everyday to address these issues? I regularly tell my students the words of the Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” I am a substitute teacher in the state of Pennsylvania, USA. One day I might be teaching in a Kindergarten room, the next day in High School – or any grade in between. I work for a school district with 14 schools, so I have the opportunity to be a positive influence on hundreds of children. I take this responsibility very seriously and with great joy!
I like to get to know my students personally, and one of the best ways I’ve found is to give them the chance to share a little about themselves. Often I will ask students to take turns telling what they love to do in their free time. I’ve found that a very common answer (especially among boys) is playing video games. The more popular games are the ones with war and violence as the theme. I find this very disturbing and will usually try to have some discussion on the merits of imaginative play outdoors and how it is a better choice than hours of simulated violence. This trend brings about a disconnection with the natural world. Earth Day awareness begins with people reconnecting with the earth.
With the advances in technology we are able to see more of the Earth than ever before. It’s quite easy to find pictures or videos of our beautiful planet taken from space. Donald Williams, a former NASA astronaut said, “For those who have seen the Earth from space, and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands who will, the experience most certainly changes your perspective. The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us.” Stunning videos showing the amazing wonders of the planet and its inhabitants are easily accessible. When students can see and realize how precious the Earth is, and the ramifications when it’s put in jeopardy, it’s more likely for them to be vested and interested in saving it. That is the perfect opportunity to show all the ways for even a child to participate in stewardship of their home, planet Earth.
Today I saw some artwork displayed in a Kindergarten hallway of traced and cutout hands “holding” a colored Earth. Some schools take their students outside to pick up trash in the neighborhood or in the creeks and waterways. Many teachers will give students plants or saplings or seeds to plant either around the school or at home. Most teachers will at the very least, read books on “thinking green” topics. Recently I was in a 1st grade class of mostly 6-year-olds, and I read an age appropriate book on ways to do your part in taking care of the Earth. The book focused on “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle”. The children were like sponges soaking up strategies. It was exciting for me to share a concept new to them – composting. I don’t think composting is a widely used practice in our suburban neighborhoods here. However, backyard vegetable gardening is becoming more common.
One vital practice I would love to see implemented in this area is school vegetable gardens planted, maintained, and harvested by the students. I’ve seen it being done in other areas and it is the perfect hands-on, meaningful endeavor to connect children more deeply to the Earth. I would suggest as educators that we not stop at the “book learning” of Earth Stewardship, but take it to the next level where children are putting the information into practice on a daily basis and getting their hands dirty!
NE Youth Council Leader: Yongo Otieno Wycliffe For more hands-on inspiration, meet one of New Earth Youth Council’s leaders, 23-year-old Yongo from a small village in Kenya actively teaching children about honoring the Earth through his own grassroots initiative, Share Permaculture Project.
Happy Earth Day! from all of us at New Earth