Let kids ask ‘Why’ mindfully and constantly to save our mother earth
The life we live today will set the foundation for how the next generation will live their lives. Our actions have an effect on this planet that we call home, and we need to be mindful of the consequences of living without consideration for the future. It is the need of the hour to cultivate a means of living that will enable future generations to live viably. To that end, awareness, in the form of environmental studies, can play a key role in ensuring that current and future generations can create a sustainable future.
Environmental studies can be considered as a catalyst for change. It provides us with the knowledge to think critically and the power to understand the impact of our actions. But, are we doing enough to ensure that this information and knowledge is being imparted efficiently enough to empower the next generation?
In an email interview to Hindustan Times, Lina Ashar, Founder of kangaroo kids and Billabong high speaks on the importance of making kids aware about the environment we live in and how to protect it and keep it healthy for the generations to come.
1) Why is it necessary for schools to introduce environmental studies?
Environmental studies already exist. What we need now is the introduction of climate change and sustainability. Our world will implode if we don’t! The world is constantly changing and with it, so is the environment that students are growing up in. Recent examples like the smog in Delhi (with the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaching up to 463, is considered severe. A good AQI is between 0 to 50) and the floods in Venice (the worst in over 50 years) are a definite cause for worry. Our generation and previous generations have done very little to sustain a healthy environment and so now it has reached a stage of dire emergency. Our children will have no future if they have not been made aware of the challenges.
The good thing is that with technology and creative education our children can redeem all the pain we have given Mother Earth. To educate for a sustainable future we need to shift ‘why’ we are educating our children. We can still create a sustainable future by shifting what we are doing in our schools. Genius ideas like robotic bees that can pollinate crops, the sea bin that can clean our oceans and the vegan bottle that replaces the plastic ones will happen if our education system moves away from content mastery and assessment to a system that embraces a solution seeking creative mindset. A system that moves away from the emphasis on the content driven academic curriculum. One that asks kids what world problem they are excited about solving, rather than one that asks them what they want to be when they grow up. We need students to gain the insight that is required for them to live sustainably, make better choices and work with nature. I firmly believe that if sustainability is inculcated during their childhood, it is likely to manifest in their future.
2) How can students differentiate between wants and needs and need and greed
From very early years we can teach children the difference between wants and needs. When a toddler says ‘I need some chocolate’ is when the conversation needs to begin. A ‘need’ is essential for survival, for our existence. Everything else is a ‘want’. We have lots of activities and worksheets based on this.
The quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed” should extend to individual man and companies.
One aspect of corporate greed our children should become mindful of is the planned obsolescence of products. Imagine a world in which we deliberately design technology products to fail prematurely or become out of date so that we consume more and more in order to increase the sales and revenues for these technology companies. Manufactures use digital locks and copyrighted software so that products become redundant faster!
Students can be taught the difference between ‘wants and needs’ & ‘need and greed’ also through case studies that exemplify how corporate greed can manipulate the wants and needs of a customer.
Our education efforts should go into encouraging an aptitude for ‘sustainability’, to transform students into conscious and mindful consumers who are considerate towards the planet.
3) How can we create a sustainable future for our kids today?
In trying to prepare our kids for a sustainable future, we need to start taking action today. We need to be considerate of what we purchase, how we consume and the waste we generate in the process. We can change why and how we educate our children to embrace a sustainable-growth mindset.
4) How can we make our children responsible towards the environment?
The first steps in making children feel responsible towards the environment is creating an awareness of the conditions today and emphasizing the need for a responsible outlook towards the environment. Additionally, we need to shift the ‘why’ behind their education to educate for a sustainable future. The education system needs to move away from the agenda of content mastery to one that influences a solution-seeking creative mindset. Thereafter, we can teach our children to be mindful of their consumption and consumerism. This can help them take the initiative to be environmentally conscious while making decisions.
5) What are the various ways to encourage and inculcate reasoning skills in a child?
Children need to be given the freedom to think and express themselves. They need to create their own experiences to form their own reasoning. Sometimes, to find the right answers, you need to ask the right questions. And it is only through asking questions that we begin to understand how things work. It is important that parents and teachers encourage children to think on their own and question everything to try to fill the ‘information gap’.
We need to encourage their curiosity so that they can inculcate reasoning and critical thinking skills. The more they are exposed to the world at large, the more they will begin to think and reason. At the same time, these skills can be developed through problem-solving activities and games, reading books, creative-expression and asking open-ended questions.
7) How can parents and Schools teach importance and methods of giving back to the environment?
Human consumption of food and resources is more than the level that the earth can sustain. An article in the journal ‘Nature’ estimates that global waste generation will triple to 11 million tons a day by 2100. Moreover, even with countries making strides in banning plastic, it is not enough to save the earth. However, if we care for our children’s future, we have to be more mindful, we have to give back to the environment. But our actions alone will not guarantee a secure future for our children. That is why it is important to teach children the importance of giving back to the environment, so that they can sustain the viability of the earth as well as their future on it.
From an early age, it is important that we teach children about the value of not wasting water and not using more resources than they need; awareness plays a key role in giving back to the environment. Additionally, parents need to inculcate a sense of respect and care for the environment in the children, which is best done through letting children experience the environment first hand. When children develop a sense of care for the environment, they will consciously take action to be environment-friendly. Parents can also induce a sense of care for the environment by being positive role models that demonstrate an active interest in giving back to the environment.
8) Nature is our biggest teacher? How can teachers and parents be a third eye in making a child understand the same?
Our earth began as a sanctuary for all life and if man observes every living species, other than man, what is observed, is that every other creature works with nature, in such a way that it produces more resources for the next generation than it consumes. Every worm, every insect, every animal works for the ecological well being of the planet. This is every creature, but ‘us’ who are supposedly the most intelligent species!
It is said that nature is our biggest teacher because every aspect of nature has a lesson for us. And teachers and parents need to help children interpret and understand these lessons. They can do so by encouraging children to be curious and mindful about nature. Additionally, by keeping children involved in meaningful activities in nature, nature can become a teacher that children turn to for bigger answers.
9) How can introducing environmental studies as a subject help to shift overall aspect of content-based learning to problem solving and content involving form of learning?
Environmental studies as a subject, helps students to understand the problems and issues in the world, and at the same time, it encourages them to think creatively and find a solution. It encourages students to question ‘why’ things happen and teaches them what they can do to solve it.
As subject, environmental studies is less about memorising and more about understanding and applying their knowledge. It embraces a solution-seeking mindset, which is why it can help shift the overall aspect of learning from content-driven mastery to a problem-solving form of learning.
Eric Barker in his book ‘Barking Up the Wrong Tree’ demonstrates that students who get top grades in high school rarely rise to their full potential and /or contribute to any path breaking innovation or paradigm shift. In a system that rewards students for conforming there is little motivation to think outside the box. If we shift why we teach we can have a future that focuses on consuming less and creating more that can lead to a sustainable future. Solutions like robotic bees and the sea-bin will be innovated more and more as children shift to a problem solving style of learning.
(Author Lina Ashar is Founder of kangaroo kids and Billabong high. Views expressed here are personal.)