Want to Save the Planet? Educate the Children
I did not grow up with environmental values. At best, I was unaware of the impacts of my actions on the environment and, at worst, I could be deemed a “litter bug.” It wasn’t until college that I became aware of climate change and how devastating our actions, as humans, have been to the planet—our Mother Earth.
While studying abroad in Germany during my college years, I witnessed first-hand how environmental values were ingrained in children in that culture. I enrolled in a children’s literature class, which inspired me to self-publish a children’s book teaching kids about the environment in a fun way—through song and dance. I realized the importance of educating children at a young age and wanted to create an experience I did not have as a child.
The book opens with this quote:
“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” John F. Kennedy
As a proud employee of CalRecycle, an agency that manages resources in the literal sense (beverage containers, motor oil, electronics, tires, food waste, etc.), it is important for us to recognize one of the most precious resources we have: our youth. I was thrilled to find out that CalRecycle’s Office of Education and the Environment is working to build environmental literacy among California K-12 students through the state’s Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum.
This free K-12 curriculum is a gold mine for teachers looking to engage their students on environmental topics. The EEI curriculum teaches science and history-social science through an environmental lens. Each unit is beautifully laid out and equipped with textbook “alignments.” These alignments serve as a guide for teachers to know where they can put their traditional textbook down and can pick up the EEI curriculum. In this way, they can teach select California standards, but with the environment in mind.
As a Master’s degree student in an Urban Sustainability program and focusing on education, I realize the significance of curriculum such as EEI. And, I have had the great pleasure of working with the folks from the Office of Education and the Environment on a school project. This involved engaging with teachers interested in bringing this type of education to their students.
Teachers are always looking for ways to get their students excited about the learning process. Often, environmental topics are directly related to our health—the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. This garners interest from kids from the get-go. As an environmental educator focused on the “fun” aspect, I understand the importance of student engagement. Kids are more apt to learn and retain if their interest is peaked.
As a late-blooming environmental activist, I am happy to know that our students in California have the opportunity to achieve environmental literacy through a public school education.
For the concept of sustainability—in which our environmental, social, and economic aspects of our lives are in balance—to become a reality, children must be educated at a young age. We need a generation of kids growing up thinking about how their own actions, and the systems that are in place, affect the environment. A new generation equipped with environmental education will help us create the future we want to see. In addition, let’s not overlook the fact that educating children can also result in a heightened environmental awareness in parents: a two-for-one deal! Children have a wide-eyed curiosity and a plethora of untapped potential; it is crucial to invest in our young people and environmental education.
If you are a teacher, know a teacher, or are interested in promoting environmental literacy in the children you love, check out this innovative curriculum tailored to California’s youth. Read more about how the curriculum was developed and access the resources online at www.CaliforniaEEI.org.
Angela Vincent is a recycling specialist at CalRecycle and author of Save Queen Green! Mother Nature’s Eco-Rhymes.