A survey with children from the Toni Jensen School
Children have a different view of their environment. They are curious and want to understand what is going on around them. Reason enough to let the youngest have their say on the topic of “sustainability”.
It was particularly noticeable that children perceive their environment best with pets. They connect the behaviour of animals with their daily observations. We try to explain dogs, cats, birds and many other creatures such as insects to the children by putting them in the animals’ perspective. What happens when they are a dog, a cat or a mouse? How can they get rid of a metal collar that someone threw away and is stuck on their neck? If they were a sheep and had plastic in their stomach, how do they get the plastic out?
Many parents are interested in keeping animals at home. These animals help the child understand what is going on around them. (Domestic) animals give children additional skills and self-confidence and at the same time impart a sense of responsibility. Children know that young animals need a safe place, a home and a clean environment to survive.
With perspective play, children can more easily understand their environment, for example: the forest, the garden and the animals around them.
Sustainability in the classroom
Children learn in schools and kindergartens how to recycle things or make new things from old things and reuse them (for example, old clothes,empty boxes and wastepaper). Children see these things carelessly disposed of whereas they can reuse them in a playful way. These are the first learning steps in sustainability and recycling.
What is the purpose of learning for sustainability?
All people should have a variety of skills and experiences that will support them in the future and help them to create a more vibrant environment. Children learn this through enjoyment, laughter and play. Those who learn through play learn faster and more sustainably. Play in schools and kindergartens is one of the basic forms of learning and caring. In recent years, the methods, and things to play with, have changed. Children use what the environment offers. The teachers show how toys are made – they turn old wood into horses and swings. Some children participate by rebuilding new toys. In this way, they significantly contribute to recycling.
Another field where schools are active is the field of food. The menu in schools and kindergartens increasingly includes seasonal food. Parents are not allowed to send their child with sugar or sweets to school or kindergarten (focusing instead heavily on vegetables and fruit). In this way, children learn to appreciate what the environment offers. This also helps to improve their environmental knowledge while at the same time, it gives them healthy produce.
School picnics and outings are another way to learn about the environment and its problems: for example, a walk in the forest to collect waste and learn where food and groceries come from. This is a suitable way to later make the connection between climate and global warming and what the child sees outside.
Film screenings offered by schools attract a lot of interest. The elevated temperatures, the droughts, the extreme rainfalls and the severe floods are topics that are raised for discussion by these young people.
Some schools and kindergartens also conduct practical experiments to develop cognitive skills by linking theories with practice. In one kindergarten, children collect beach rubbish and sort it. After a week and more, they noticed the changes, in the remains of fruits and vegetables. But they also noticed that the plastic had not changed. So, they learn how important it is to separate waste.Hence these children help their parents at home.
The more children learn about the environment and their surroundings, how to conserve the resources available now, and the earlier children start the more chance of a better outcome for the future and for the lives of future generations.
There are methods for children of all ages to raise their awareness about the environment and future resources. With this we can lay the foundation for sustainable development. Children care and are quite inquisitive by nature . Children are curious and want to know more about what is going on around them. Children’s books play a significant role in this. With books about the environment, nature and sustainability, children, together with adults, understand the changes in the environment and climate. They can thus form an awareness of all these life issues. Terms like “environment”, “sustainability” and “waste problem” come up in a number of daily conversations today. A large number of interesting and inspiring children’s books are available on this subject.
At Toni Jensen Community School, a group of children in the third grade were asked about the environment and sustainability.
1. What would you do if the shops in your town were closed for half a year?
2. Which animal would you like to be?
3. What would be your favourite forest if you could create one?
4. Can you help your family sort their rubbish?
5. Do you use a bicycle to get to school?
And these were the Answers:
1. Many children want to move straight to other towns when all the shops are closed. Ahmed, on the other hand, wants to grow some vegetables in the garden of the house. He also wants to ask his family to buy chicken, ducks and sheep so that they can meet their own food needs. He says he wants to build a small hut for the animals and wants to help his father feed them.
2. Children choose many different animals to be transformed into. For example, Eva says she wants to be an ant, a dog, a cow. Children see a range of qualities and characteristics in these creatures and want them to be them. Some children recorded their wishes in drawings and at the same time expressed their wishes for the environment of the respective animals.
3.The children answered the question about their favourite forest that they prefer it full of trees. A green forest where all the animals live in peace and without fear. A forest with a river so that the animals have something to drink. Moreover, no one is allowed to cut down trees or make fires for cooking or barbecuing. ‘‘Only children are allowed to fish here for adults’’, Romy and Laith said. Some want to put up a sign in front of the forest: This is where our animals live! No one is allowed to treat them badly.
4. Other children do the job of separating the rubbish in the house, especially paper. Zain, for example, does this with his sister.
5. The children at Toni Jensen School mostly cycle to school. They think it is fun and nice, and it helps protect the environment.
Therefore it is not that difficult to explain the different topics around sustainability to children. If schools start taking early and simple steps with children, it will pay off both in the near and distant future. It is necessary to get our children thinking about and respecting their remaining resources on this planet at an early age.