Investing in children; investing in the future: The importance of teaching today’s youth about the environment.
It can be argued that educating youth is the first step towards making the world a greener place. Many elementary level schools worldwide already have and are continuing to develop into ‘green schools’. Community gardens planted by students as part of the biology or social science curriculum, for instance, gives youth hands-on experience that is severely lacking in many of today’s education systems. Students also gain valuable experience with sustainable gardening and learning how to make healthy food choices.
The North American Association for Environmental Education states that there are many resources available to instructors, and in turn, instructors can integrate these various methods to expand students’ knowledge of environmental topics. ‘Green Teacher’, a magazine that provides teachers with ideas for environmental activities for youth aged 6-19, is one such resource available to engage teachers and students alike. ‘Green Teacher’ also publishes a book series for students, touching on everything from wildlife conservation to energy consumption.
‘Energy Kids’, run by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, is an example of an online tool available to teachers. The website provides experiential activities, stories on energy use, a history of energy discoveries, as well as information on different kinds of energy technologies and statistics. Also accessible to teachers is the Green Schools Alliance, a non-profit organization teaming up with 5000 students worldwide to help create solutions to environmental teaching.
These strategies have proven impactful at multiple scales. In California, 17-year old Madison Moore lived as any other youth would, which included taking long daily showers without realizing the negative environmental consequences of her actions. That was, however, until she learned that her city will be facing a severe drought, and the aquifer that provides the city with water will eventually dry up completely. She learns this at school through the resources provided by the California Regional Environmental Education Community, and became increasingly interested in water conservation efforts. As a result, she has decided to use less water, starting with shorter shower times. After graduating from high school in early 2015, Moore attended the Desert E.Y.E. Conference, where youth from southern California are inspired to improve the state of the environment. Moore now shares her experience and knowledge with others, particularly her friends and family.
University- and college-level students also serve as valuable resources for younger citizens; they are able to share their knowledge and experiences to help expand networks of young environmentalists.
Education is a great way to engage with today’s youth, primarily through utilizing non-profit organizations and schools to expand experiential learning opportunities.