Old habits die hard, so the saying goes. That’s why it’s vital to pick up good habits as soon as humanly possible. Often this means helping our children to learn to be good citizens while they develop intellectually in the classroom.
So how, therefore, can we get them to be good citizens in an environmental sense? With a renewed sense that the current generation must act to protect the planet for the next, it’s crucial that children understand what it means to be green.
Here are some practical ways to help them along the way:
As a nation we’ve come a long way when it comes to recycling. In 2001 just 12 per cent of municipal waste was recycled and by 2010 that had jumped to 39 per cent. Now that figure is running in the low 40s. That is still below our target of 50 per cent by 2020 though, which means we must still do more at all levels of society.
That can start quite naturally in the classroom. Make sure every scrap of paper used is recycled and that the children use recycling bins in the classroom. Encourage children to bring in things like batteries and used ink cartridges that can be sent off for recycling, maybe even making it into a competition or challenge. Give children the responsibility of being ‘eco champions’ to co-ordinate your classroom’s efforts – they’ll thrive with the responsibility.
While we’re at it, it’s worth considering which materials could be used for art projects. That can be packaging or discarded items in the classroom or also at home. Old shoe boxes, jars and plastic bottles might all come in handy in the right context – get children to squirrel them away and bring them in. By finding a new creative use for old materials children will be able to appreciate the fun side of recycling.
The sort of technology available in the classroom these days means that it is easier than ever to ‘go green’ while learning how to use the devices that are essential to a modern, digital world. Children shouldn’t need to be issued with stacks of worksheets or handouts to help with their tasks, with computers and tablets helping to wean classrooms off using quite so much paper.
Don’t just think inside the classroom either. Help children to understand their carbon footprint by thinking about the way they get to school as well as what they do while they are there. Sharing lifts with classmates can help cut this down, as can encouraging children to use public transport or things such as a ‘walking bus’ to safely make their way in in the mornings. Teachers can set the tone by the way they travel in to work too. This might depend on where you are and what options are available. Teacher jobs in London might pose a different challenge to the Outer Hebrides for example, but the principle is the same: if you lead, they will follow.