The effects of global warming have been especially acute in the past few weeks (at the time of this writing). From a ‘historic’ warm winter in Europe, to days of rain and a devastating flood in New Zealand described as the “biggest climate event” in New Zealand’s history, global warming is getting very real. This should draw our attention to the importance of sustainable living, as well as the need to inculcate the values of sustainability in as many people as possible. Arguably, the most important people to inculcate the values of sustainability in would be children. The children of today are our future, and therefore most of our hopes for a more sustainable society would have to rest on them, and on them influencing future generations for the better. How do we go about teaching children about sustainability then?
1. Incorporating sustainability education into your teaching curriculum
Some educational subjects are naturally compatible with sustainability-related topics. The teaching of sustainability topics such as environmental conservation and renewable energy can be integrated into science or social studies classes. For example, during chemistry classes in Tampines Secondary, students learn about the harmful gases that are released into the environment as a result of human activities.
Even for subjects that are not so compatible with sustainability-related topics, the tools and methods used for teaching such subjects could be sustainability-themed. For example, when teaching algebra, students can be giving a sustainability-related context to work calculations out. “How much carbon missions must the factory reduce, in order to make it carbon-neutral?”
2. Let the children take part in actual sustainability activities
Practical learning is among the best ways of learning, and this applies to sustainability learning as well. By taking part in activities which have a real positive impact on sustainability, children will be able to better appreciate and understand the sustainability concepts taught.
For example, in Mee Toh School as part of a fam-to-table program, Primary 3 students learn first-hand about the growing of food and the hard work that goes into it. The program involves the students growing vegetables and mushrooms, with half the harvest sold in the canteen and the other half donated to an old folks’ home.
3. Involve children in sustainability-related community projects
Taking part in community projects is great way to both teach children about sustainability, as well as to instil in them a greater sense of purpose when pursuing sustainability-related goals.
Being part of a sustainability community will empower children with a sense of belonging and shared purpose, thus motivating them to pursue sustainability-related goals. Furthermore, the community can be a source of ideas for new sustainability projects to take on.
Use different mediums of learning: Using stories, videos, games and other interactive mediums to make learning about sustainability more interesting.
4. Use less conventional means of learning
Last but not least, there are various other less conventional means of teaching sustainability, which are no less impactful or engaging.
One of these means is games. Games are an effective way for children to learn and internalize sustainability-related concepts, given how engaging and fun they are. I mean, I can’t think of a child who does not like playing games! On top of that, many games involve the use of critical thinking. This can develop a propensity in children to be more thoughtful about sustainability, important for the appreciation of its importance.
If you are looking for a great “eco-game” to inculcate the values of sustainability in your children or students in a fun and engaging way, you can check out The Eco-Statement. TES is a company founded with the purpose of creating environmental and social impact through games and workshops. Two of such games include RecycleRight, which is Singapore’s first eco card game, and Karang Guni Trail, which is an eco board game. These games have been enjoyed by children both across schools and at home, and I am yours or that of someone you know would enjoy them as well!