Whether you passively watch it or actively work to mitigate it, we have entered into a state of global environmental emergency. We cannot go on as if it were business as usual. Unsustainable environmental practices are systemic and impact every aspect of our daily lives. Violent storms, drought, and species extinction are significant consequences to widespread pesticide use, pollutants, and harmful resource extraction practices such as Canada’s tar sands. Widespread unemployment and poverty are also consequences. April is a great time to think about how we are preparing our students to be good environmental stewards and to highlight environmental issues. Here are some ideas for your classroom.
Celebrate Earth Month: Don’t let Earth Month go by without lots of recognition. Make it a big event, like an environmental film festival, or several smaller events like inviting a First Nations storyteller into your classroom, participating in Meatless Mondays and Trashless Tuesdays or running no-trace camping skills workshops.
Freebie: The Ontario Teachers’ Federation and Planet in Focus provide a guide to organizing an Environmental Film Festival. tiny.cc/FilmFestGuide
Teach sustainability–explicitly: Knowledge is power, and when people understand the issues, they are better equipped to tackle them. Each year students should be strengthening their understanding of the complexity of sustainability. The World Commission on Environment and Development’s definition is “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” What does sustainability look like?
Freebie: Use the Story of Stuff , a 20-minute movie about the way we make, use, and throw away stuff. tiny.cc/StoryOfStuff
Get outdoors: Education writer David Sobel says, “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.” Give students the opportunity to develop a relationship with the Earth. Have students adopt a tree in their schoolyard or community to use for art (draw the tree in each season) or to use as writing prompts (“Day in the Life of My Tree”).
Freebie: The Back 2 Nature Network offers the ultimate kindergarten to grade 8 guide for teaching all subjects outdoors, developed by and for teachers. Available in both English and French, an essential addition to your resources! tiny.cc/IntoNature
Bring the outdoors in: Start a worm bin! Composting has endless connections to the curriculum and can help foster conversations regarding consumption, food waste, food sources and security, agriculture, life cycles, among many other important topics. The resulting rich humus will restore nutrients in your garden – a great way to start preparing for or extending a learning garden.