Young people are more aware than ever of the need for us to care for our planet. They are leading adults in the revolution. So, how can we help to empower young people to care for the environment using youth-led social action?
To celebrate Earth Day 2021, we're looking at how you can encourage your pupils to care for the environment through social action.
The UKSCN aims to get young people involved in the fight for the health of our planet. Their events, strikes, and initiatives are largely on hold at the moment due to coronavirus, but they are a great way for KS3 and KS4 pupils to seek and empower change.
As a school, you can join the network, and get updates, news, and be part of their mission. They are currently developing resources, teaching packs and lesson plans, so the learning can continue whilst their main actions are on hold. Their latest project is #classroomsforclimate - in which schools join together to put pressure on the government to make changes to help our environment repair.
There are several schemes that are aimed at recording species, and this is a really beneficial idea for pupils to get involved in. It increases their awareness of the world around them, and the species they see day to day.
For example, the RSPB Bird Watch is a brilliant scheme for young people to take part in. Or, to add some variety and structure to the lessons, the class can be split into three groups. One focuses on the Bird Watch activities, the other the Great British Bee Count, and the third on the Great British Butterfly Count. The groups can be rotated, so that the learning for each child is well-rounded.
Children and young people can learn about the effects of living as we know it on the environment from within the classroom. As with every subject, pupils take what they learn home, so its a brilliant opportunity to teach them the importance of being responsible for our planet. They will take that knowledge home, and highlight what they can do better in their own family lives.
le. If they take to this activity, a Beeswax Wrap Sale would be a great way to get interest and spread the use of them throughout the school - and parents too.
Beeswax wraps are a sustainable and reusable alternative to clingfilm and helps cutdown on single use plastic in the home. They would also be a great hands on activity for a change in pace in home learning.
A great majority of us learn best with visual prompts. Therefore, making a classroom display of different plastic products that pupils will be familiar with, with reusable alternatives is so impactful. For example, including drinks bottles, plastic bags, and items they bring in themselves will ensure they can identify and relate to the display. Adding information about how long these plastic items take to break down and how they affect wildlife would be a good way to impart the need for change onto our young people, and their families.
To get the whole school involved and create an Environment Fair in the school hall is a great way to expand on this if the children respond really well to the displays. This gives an opportunity for them to think of ways that they can work round the issue, and other ways to help the planet. Opening this up to parents in a safe way is also a brilliant way of spreading this newfound knowledge, and making a difference within the community.
Safely organising school litter picking sessions, or even taking your pupils to the park and litter picking there, is a small but easy action. The students feel involved and can see the change they are making to their local environment - a crucial part of character development. Not only do they see the before and after of a cleaner space, it can be explained that this helps keep wildlife safe, and has an impact on the wider community too.
At school, and at home, encourage children you come into contact with to get involved in their gardens or green spaces. Whether it’s planting trees in the school field, or planting more in your garden, it’s great for pupils to get their hands dirty, and it’s great for the environment. If outdoor planting isn’t an option, having plants in and around the house reduces carbon dioxide. The Woodland Trust have resources and tools to do this.
Both of these options provide a project for children and young people to feel empowered by, and something where they can actively see change and growth. To extend it into the community, they could hold a school fundraiser to take small houseplants to the elderly in the community to brighten up their homes, too. Getting pupils outside and involved in their environment is key to helping them understand the importance of looking after our outside spaces - and how by doing things independently, they help globally.
Other activities include making bug hotels. They can collectively find materials suitable, and with direction, build a structure. This is something that can bean ongoing feature, and their interest in its progress will sustain. The same applies for hedgehog houses, bird feeders, or bird houses. These are all things the children can be involved with, and then see the progress and benefit afterwards. The impact this experiential learning is vital to teaching them the value of serving in their communities, and instilling the value of community service.
You can sign up to be updated on this year's Earth Day at earthday.org - and join the one billion participants.
Our Young Leaders Award is centred around partaking in social action in local communities, and helping to provide these practical opportunities. Experiential learning is key to character development and social awareness as kids grow up. Interested in what the YLA has to offer? Try out our free resource packs, available to download here.