Sustainable Futures in Attain Magazine
/ Categories: In the press
Sustainability is very much a way of life for today’s children. Kay Goldsworthy of St Ives explores the wide range of changes both schools and parents can make to develop a more sustainable outlook.
By environmental standards, we live in frightening times. The sense of urgency on climate change is palpable. Every day the realities of our rapidly changing natural world are communicated in greater detail. Children especially may feel overwhelmed, scared and frightened by what they hear. As parents and teachers, we need to equip our children with the skills and knowledge they need to feel more confident of what they can do today to ensure a more sustainable future.
Sustainability as a way of life
The first thing is to recognise that for today’s children, sustainability is very much a way of life. The current generation of parents and teachers are having to “unlearn” many common behaviours, question long accepted beliefs and make significant changes to their way of life.
But for our children, sustainability will be a natural and fully integrated way of living – no doubt they will look back in horror at some of the things we would have considered normal.
Schools can and should act as best practice leaders to showcase the positive impacts of small changes within the school environment. Schools provide a great test environment for children to understand and express sustainability in practice, as well as provide a healthier environment within which children can learn and grow.
Big changes such as embracing renewable energy and introducing water saving measures can help showcase new and more sustainable ways of living. But small changes can also have big impacts. Our school recently held a Halloween costume swap, which was a great way for the children to test how to reuse and share clothes rather than buy new.
Children should also be empowered to make individual changes in their own lives. Activities that are child-led and initiated will nurture a greater sense of responsibility for their role in the world. Children should play a lead role in identifying changes in the school environment as well as at home. Time spent outside – forest school activities, gardening, growing your own vegetables – all encourage children to learn from and not just about nature, grow mindfulness and become aware of nature’s natural rhythms.
Families and communities are key to empowering children and deepening the impacts of small changes and lessons learned. Schools can engage families by setting ‘home challenges’ and sharing achievements. At our school, an ‘eco-brick’ challenge has seen families work together to fill plastic bottles with their non-recyclable plastics. These will then be used to create new flower beds around the school. This activity has helped to deepen awareness of waste management and open the children to the possibilities of re-using waste.
Parents are a treasure trove of knowledge and skills that can be shared across the school. Parents may share their knowledge on a particular topic in assembly or host a skill share on, for example, how to upcycle unwanted clothes, undertake simple repairs, or keep bees and chickens. This can bring greater diversity to children’s learning and open them to new sources of inspiration.