Friday, February 18, 2011

Teaching Children about Sustainability - Guest Post

It's my pleasure to welcome Sabbithry Persad to The Book Chook today.

Sabbithry Persad has been writing stories and poems since she was a child growing up on the island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. She won her first award at the age of fourteen in her high school’s Language Arts Showcase. Her childhood was filled with many siblings, several pets and farm animals, and countless well-read, entertaining books from literature and scientific magazines to comic books and encyclopedias.

Now, after a number of years as a professional writer, Sabbithry Persad shares her enthusiasm for reading and writing through publishing and authoring books. Persad’s debut children’s book is Garbology Kids Where Do Recyclable Materials Go? Follow Sabbithry on Twitter. Purchase link for Sabbithry's book. 

Teaching Children about Sustainability
by Sabbithry Persad

"Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." –1987 Bruntland Report

Sustainability as defined in the Bruntland Report can leave you feeling a little overwhelmed, but teaching sustainability to children doesn’t have to be daunting. In simple terms, sustainability is ensuring that people and the earth have basic needs to thrive both now and in the indefinite future. If we look at this on a parental level, we can then ask how can parents teach children to understand people and the earth and help take care of both for ourselves now and for those that come after us. And according to The Successful Guide to Home Schooling, “studies have shown that children rely primarily on their parents to teach them strategies to respond effectively to external events (Spinrad, Losoya, Eisenberg and Fabes, 1999).” This makes parents a critical foundation for children to learn about sustainability.

So how does a parent go about teaching sustainability to their child or children? One way is to teach children the basics of ecology. Allowing children to get outside and learn about the natural earth and its cycles – plants, animals, soil, and all the elements that surround us – can help them to develop an understanding and appreciation for all living and non-living things, including the way they are all connected and dependent upon each other. Encouraging children to interact with their environment and explore the beauty of this world that surrounds them could give them a long lasting gift that they take with them into the future.

Other opportunities parents can take advantage of are:

Allow children to participate in parents activities. Because children learn first and foremost from their parents, getting children involved in activities such as gardening, composting, reducing and reusing can help them to learn more than just the basics. I remember when my parents taught me how to plant fruits and herbs, something I haven’t forgotten to this day. Parents have a wealth of knowledge that they can impart and what better people to share that with than their children.

Celebrate the diversity of culture and citizenship. Understanding different cultures, practices and traditions can help both children and parents to embrace different groups of people that live in their local community. Having a shared understanding fosters a connection with humanity, which might lead to helping the community and those live in it; locally and globally.

Embrace multi-disciplinary and critical thinking by allowing children to think outside of the box. Innovation of ideas on how to develop and make things environmentally friendly, more efficient and with less packaging is critical to a sustainable future. Give children a head start by encouraging them to look everywhere for the answers to things that they may not know or may ask about. Important too, is the value of questioning the information that they come across. With the influx of information on the Internet, parents would need to be a guide to teach children to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of information. And finally, parents could assist children with conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating the information they find.

Decisions involve making conscious choices about how one’s behaviour and actions impact the environment, our community, and the world. Preparing children with a foundation that helps them to make better choices that serves humanity and the earth now and in the future is something parents can be proud of for generations to come.
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