Anita looked forward to Fridays. It was the day her mother would take her shopping at the local supermarket after picking her up from school. She loved looking at the fresh vegetables, the array of chocolates and a long line of cosmetic products that stood in a line, waiting to be purchased. As her mother and her walked to the counter to get their purchases billed, she listened to the friendly banter between her mother and the cashier. As the cashier moved to get them a plastic cover, she said – “No, wait. I bought a cloth bag with me. Let’s avoid plastic”. Her mother and the woman behind the counter were stunned. Anita was nine and knew more about going green than they did. The importance of teaching primary children environmental education cannot be overstated. It is critical that the citizens of tomorrow know the importance of environmental conservation today. What has changed in the last twenty years that we need to teach children this alongside addition, subtraction, photosynthesis, and capitals of the world? This article aims at answering that question. In no way is this meant to take the focus away from spreading the concept of going green among other age groups and members of the community, but since we are renting the Earth the future generation, the younger they learn about global warming, the better for the environment.
Learning from our mistakes The importance of inculcating green values and environmental education was neglected in the sphere of formal schooling with the past generations. The effect it had on the environment was extremely negative, and its effects can be seen today. The past years have seen the worst disasters to the environment, be it the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Chernobyl factory nuclear leak, the Bhopal gas tragedy. The rates of deforestation are exceeding at an alarming rate. In fact, from the year 1960 on, global green cover has been at its lowest. Man’s greed and need took the industrial revolution further than it was intended. Then there was the green revolution that left the soil acidic and the crops stunted. The ozone hole is larger than ever, and global temperature is increasing at an alarming rate. Coastlines are disappearing, and the ice shelves are melting. The world is in a precarious position, and all this could have been avoided had people learned that petroleum cars give rise to carbon footprints, and that excessive deforestation would mean the lack of clean air that in turn affects the quality of living. A lot has been done in the past decades out of ignorance, and because realizing we were ignorant in the past will not help us now; we need to start educating our future.
Child Mental Development Scientists have experimental proof that a child is at the peak of its mental development during the age group of six to ten. While teaching children important concepts of mathematics, science and language, why can’t environmental awareness also be included? These are skills the child needs to use for the rest of his life. If he needs to add five items to a store and pay his bill, why shouldn’t he learn that he has to carry a cloth bag to put those items in it to avoid plastic pollution? If the child has to learn how human beings breathe in fifth-grade biology, shouldn’t she also be aware that air pollution caused due to automobile exhaust, factory smoke, and pollution prevents her from breathing good quality air? Taking care of the environment and the basic things we learn to do in everyday life are interlinked. If the child is being taught fundamental things he wouldn’t forget for the rest of his life in primary school, it is high time environmental education is considered a necessity, as values of green living, are just as important as knowing how to multiply two numbers or remembering the functions of the human body.
Child Emotional Development School is critical for another reason that the child also grows mentally. The concepts of sharing, making friends, apologizing and thanking are all social ideas inculcated in the child to make him or her a more wholesome and emotionally aware individual. In this context, environmental education is important as caring for animals, anti-hunting sentiments, ecological balance for the good of humanity helps in improving the emotional development in children.
The principle of making it a part of formal schooling Though the concept of tests and homework may be looked down by modern educators, there is no doubt these are effective education tools. If a child learns through a textbook how many trees are cut every year to make space for malls, how many species have become extinct due to hunting, poaching and habitat destruction, it is a stronger source of information and cement the fact that environmental protection is, in fact, the need of the hour. Textbooks and learning in the classroom have more credibility than the child learning through a website or a blog, and the fact that schools think environmental protection is an important enough issue to teach children in the classroom will make even the parents and guardians aware. This will give rise to a lot of positive changes within the home of the child
- Changes in everyday lifestyles of the family members
Since parents are active and involve themselves in the education of children studying in primary schools, they will understand that the curriculum holds environment protection as a high priority. This way, there will be changes in the lives of people within that family. They might gradually shift to eco-friendly paper, cloth bags while shopping for provisions and change to organically grown crops and pulses. Even if they don’t involve themselves, the fact that their child thinks so strongly about these green values will give rise to some change within their family
The children will learn the benefits of common resource sharing methods like car pooling, and may find it viable to practice it as well. Even if five children in one classroom become environmentally aware and choose to club transport to go to school, to cricket classes and coming back from the movie theater, carbon footprint would effectively be reduced, even if it is by a minuscule amount.
Growing up to become environmentally aware citizens Most importantly, these children would grow up to be environmentally aware citizens of tomorrow. They might become a part of groups like Project Tiger, an intern at Green Peace and may even want to pursue a career as environment lawyers or veterinarians. They would build their homes using renewable energy sources, use battery operated cars, opt for public transport and adopt micro waste disposal management systems in their homes or workplace. The problem we have today is a lack of environmental awareness. This is why we also find people unable to adapt to the growing environmental problems. However, if we raise the next generation inculcating these basic ecological principles at an early age, we will have a green, environmentally aware future population who will preserve the Earth and live in harmony with nature.