by David Paul Downs

Earth Day raises awareness about the environment. It gives us all a chance to reflect on the damage we have already done, and encourages us to think of solutions to the scars.

In the third grade classroom at the school where I teach, Earth Day is popular though sometimes overshadowed by
“Swimming Pool Day”. The halls are filled with useful tips on how students can affect change. In this day and age, kids are used to recycling everything they can and some are even familiar with composting.

Despite this, when questioned on the idea of a “carbon-footprint” you will receive blank stares and shoulder shrugs. This is usually a term reserved for adults who think it wrong to hold their children responsible for their family’s mark on the planet. But when it comes to educating children to use natural resources responsibly, no age is too young!

As a simple introduction to conservation, my co-teacher came up with a great idea: ask the students to name something they did that day that was not Earth-friendly. Then each student was asked to come up with solutions to improve on their shortcomings. Here are some of their answers and really simple solutions:

1. Electricity

Most students admitted to leaving their
lights on when they left a room. Many leave their game systems running and sometimes their televisions. The easiest solution was to just remember to turn them off when you leave. Lights should also be kept off during the day, especially when the sun lights up the house naturally. Unplugging game consoles when they are not in use was also one solution. Those thick power
adapters continue to pull electricity even after the device is turned off.

2. Water

The second most common problem was shower length. I am guilty of this myself. Some students admitted to taking an hour or more. The solution to this problem just requires a little self-discipline. In most countries, and some U.S. cities, a short five minute shower is critical for water conservation.

Many students also leave the water running when they brush their teeth or wash their face. Solving this dilemma requires a little coaching from the parents.

3. Paper

All those paper airplanes students make end up in the recycling bin. And while kids know of that mysterious “other-side-of-the-paper” that is blank, the little artisans rarely flip it over to draw on the reverse. A solution devised by our librarian was to re-use late book printouts that would normally get tossed, and use them as sketching paper. Parents can also buy recycled sketch books and only provide art materials that don’t bleed through the pages such as pencil colors or crayons.

It’s immensely important for parents and teachers to teach kids about protecting the environment. Especially since their lives are over-saturated with disposable products and advertisements condoning consumerism. You can do a lot for kids by just influencing good habits, and helping them take those simple steps to conserve natural resources.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is just open up a conversation such as the one we had with our students. Letting them talk freely, helps them to become aware of
changes they can make and in the process, you are sure to discover a few things you can do as well.

Do you have an Earth Day confession you’d like to share? Post below!