By Larraine Roulston:
Coastal hurricanes and wildfires have caused thousands of students to grieve over lost months of outdoor activities. Thankfully, both mainstream media and citizens are not only waking up to the reality of climate change, ocean pollution and other environmental issues but also are talking about it. Should these topics be an integral part of school curriculum?
With their successes in tackling disposable cups and straws, youth have proven that they are strong advocates. Students also engage in environmental fundraisers, eco clubs, litter cleanups, tree planting, as well as waste-free lunches. By researching environmental issues, teachers and homeschoolers can integrate math, science, research, spelling, reading and art. Even studying how we have managed to amass so much waste will serve also as a history lesson. Project reporting can be delivered to local industries, businesses, city council members, media, or presented to the school community through an assembly.
Challenging students to stand up for the environment will give them confidence in creating a sustainable future for themselves, and will develop their public speaking skills. To cover expenses, investigate climate change grants that are becoming available, such as the World Wildlife Fund-Canada that was awarded to Ontario’s Rideau Public School. Grade 4 teachers Anne Salter and Karen Orgee utilized the money to explore the negative effects of plastic. Their students learned through hands-on experiences as they toured their city’s water treatment facility, then travelled to nearby beaches to help gather beach litter. “It’s a grant to educate the students about microplastics and plastic in general in the oceans, how bad they can be, what the effects are, and what we can do to help clean up,” commented Salter. Many letters have been written and are being sent by these classmates, who are sharing their opinions also.
Students are becoming keenly aware of environmental consequences and are eager to learn how to reduce their negative impact.What are the factors causing oceans to warm? How do we reduce greenhouse gases? With the internet, surfing and making contacts have never been easier. The following activities will encourage teachers as well as citizens to discuss climate change solutions.
- Celebrations and festivals. Students can examine each aspect of what is discarded, as well as the high usage of electricity and water.
- Discover how “Fast Fashion,” washing clothes, and using clothes dryers are overheating the planet.
- Investigate animal habitat destruction and damaging agriculture practices in areas around the world.
- Chart the advantages and disadvantages of the energy produced by fossil fuels, coal and nuclear plants, and that of solar and wind. List ways to be energy efficient.
- Learn how much food is wasted from farm to fork. Discuss how to be creative with leftovers and offer alternatives to lessen our high rate of meat consumption.
- Research all the benefits of composting and its applications. Discarded organics in landfills create greenhouse gases.
- Cite statistics which establish the relationship of diseases to warmer temperatures.
- For those with business and economic interests, explore the new circular economy — an industrial system that is restorative by intention with a focus on eliminating waste. Products now are being optimized for a cycle of disassembly and reuse.
- To encourage local manufactures to become sustainable, highlight the businesses that have begun “greening” their products and services.
These topics absolutely should be an integral part of the curriculum.
Larraine writes children’s illustrated adventure books on composting and pollinating. Please visit, www.castlecompost.com