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FRED ROGERS COMMENTS ON HELPING CHILDREN TO CARE FOR OUR PLANET

 FRED ROGERS COMMENTS ON HELPING CHILDREN TO CARE FOR OUR PLANET
 PITTSBURGH, March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- "Jeffrey, please turn off the light when you leave the room!...Why don't you use the back of that paper instead of throwing it out?..."
 How hard it is to explain to a young child that we have limited resources when, to him or her, it seems that we have so much!
 Fred Rogers, creator and host of the PBS children's series "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," today offered these thoughts on how to help children care for the environment.
 These days we're asking children to care about the environment in many different ways. And yet, to them, the world revolves around their needs and their desires. That's just the way young children are. They live in the present and for the present. For them, the faraway future may be "tomorrow."
 Nevertheless, adults' concern for the environment reflects our thoughts about the future of many tomorrows. No wonder it's difficult for children to understand that we need to care today about some far- off time, Rogers said. Then, too, electricity and scarcity are abstract concepts, and children know best what they can see and touch and experience.
 According to Rogers, even though caring for the environment can be hard for children to grasp, there's much we can offer them. The greatest thing they can learn from us is our attitude. When we turn off lights and when we turn paper over to use the back of it, when we gather newspapers for recycling, and even when we marvel at a sunset, we send loud and clear messages to our children that caring for our planet is important to us. They'll take in those messages because children want to be like the important adults in their lives, he said. Have you ever seen children adopt the swagger of a favorite grownup, or assume a parent's pose and tone while playing on toy telephones? Nobody "taught" them to do those things. They watched grownups that they loved, and they began to imitate them. Attitudes are "caught," not taught, Rogers said.
 "Not long ago we heard about a preschool teacher who helped the children in her class learn something about the environment that was important to her. One day some of her children saw a spider crawl out from the windowsill, and one of them was ready to smash it. The teacher, however, reached out caringly and scooped up the spider. She took it out to the garden and set it down in the dirt, where it belonged. Those children adored that teacher, and I'd venture a guess that many of them later on in their lives took on her caring attitude towards many kinds of living things," Rogers said.
 Of course it's our continual care for the children themselves that helps them learn to care about what's important to us. We help them develop a sense of belonging to our planet when we help them know that they belong in other people's lives -- that they are loved, lovable, and capable of loving. I believe it's the children who have already grown to feel that life is worth living, and that people are worth loving, who are the ones most likely to grow up rejoicing in life and regarding this planet with loving care. They'll be the ones who will find it very natural in their own tomorrows to turn off the lights and use the backs of the papers, Rogers said.
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Date:Mar 24, 1992
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