The Conservation Generation: teaching kids to care about the environment


Everybody knows the three core subjects – Maths, English, and Science. But what about the fourth?

Conservation is becoming more and more of a crucial subject – the only subject, in fact, that explores the physical fate of the entire planet. Let’s give it some focus.

Why is the environment important?

It’s hard to condense all the reasons why lessons about being green are important in a simple nutshell, as there’s a multiplicity of factors currently making eco-friendliness a crucial topic: including increased air pollution, the furthering spread of toxins, dwindling animal and plant life and global warming – all of which will impact on our future generation’s planet.

So why is it necessary that the kids, specifically, care?

Old habits are hard to break – so it’s best to get your kids into an eco-friendly mindset from a young age.

Why? Because if we don’t start nipping our lackadaisical treatment of the planet in the bud, then it’ll be their children, and their children’s children, that’ll be badly affected.

And where better to learn a good habit than at school itself, where so much crucial learning and growing takes place already? Learning about the environment, while being an important step in prepping for the future, also aids both kids’ current psychological and physical growth – helping them to cognitively develop while improving upon their instinctual and behavioural skills, battling the offsets of Nature Deficit Disorder.

Are there games you could play to help inspire them?

When it comes to finding out about nature, games and learning go hand-in-hand.

Heidi Magill of Nature Links suggests (as an example) the simple but brilliant game, Leaf Hunt. Print off pictures of different leaves – or use real ones, alternately, to make them easier for little kids to identify! – and laminate them, then allow your pupils to pick one in pairs and go in search of it. This activity encourages lots of teamwork, use of adjectives and inspires them to know more about trees.

You could, alternately, get your kids to craft with wood, fabric and other art scraps, teaching them about recycling as you go. Have them use old leaves to make paint prints, in tandem with teaching them about the lifecycle of trees. Do ‘Guess The Animal’ quizzes, where you test your class on how much they know about local wildlife (involving endangered species where you can, such as bees, in particular, to drive home the importance of their survival). The options are endless.

But how would you go about teaching the eco-friendly agenda at school?

There’s always a way in which you can thread nature and green living into the everyday: particularly in making your classroom itself an eco-friendly landscape.

Constructing your own timber classroom is a highly beneficial way of “setting an example” for your pupils, while providing a physical incentive. And the perks can’t be denied.

Gareth Barber, Managing Director of The Stable Company, says that:

“It is recognised that well-designed classrooms boost children’s academic performance in reading writing and maths.  Timber classrooms take this to the next level, particularly as they’re designed sustainably, encouraging children to learn from the natural fabric of their surroundings.

At The Stable Company, we endeavour to make the building itself part of the classroom – for instance, by creating a natural meadow habitat on the roof. Not only does this attract wildlife, but also reduces surface water discharge to already overstretched systems.

We focus on sustainability on every level, and believe that taking this approach gives every child who occupies one of our buildings an even better chance of a great education.”

Indeed – research by the American Institutes for Research shows that access to nature (via the medium of outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based experiential education) can increase performance by 27% in certain subjects.

And the kids can be involved with the project from the very beginning – helping to choose the style of the new room, contributing to the decorating aspects and sharing the responsibility of keeping it in good nick. Sustainability and eco-friendliness meets personalisation and fun.

It doesn’t have to end there.

Getting involved in nature projects and movements isn’t hard – they’re everywhere.

For instance, why not partake in Empty Classroom Day, or enrol yourself into a building a bug hotel project?

Small things can be done too: get your class to grow flowers as part of a nurturing project. Decorate your art board with painted leaves and flowers, learning about their types and how they function in the ecosystem as you go. Allow them to read outside when the weather allows.

There are so many little things you can do to twin the relationship between general teaching and connecting with nature.

Little things that could, ultimately, have a big impact. So get into the habit now – and don’t break it. The planet, ultimately, depends on it.

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