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Kids Really Can Save the Earth.

ACEI has issued a call for peace education as "an active, integral part of the program of instruction in all schools, worldwide" (ACEI, 2000). Peace education has many dimension including peace and social justice, economic wellbeing, political participation, nonviolence, conflict resolution, and concern for the environment. There is growing awareness on the part of teachers that they have the power to spark an interest in such issues, and that their actions really can make a difference.

Caring for others within a peaceful classroom may lead children next to a natural concern for the earth's fragile environment. The upcoming Earth Day, which will be in April and which has been celebrated for the past 30 years, is an ideal time to launch new projects and attract ever-widening circles of participants. Children today hear daily news bulletins about toxic landfills, air and water pollution, acid rain, the shrinking ozone layer, and global warming. Some children in several Florida communities recently faced a new danger in their own homes--a contaminated water supply. As they were forced to boil their drinking water for several days, they gained a new appreciation for a natural resource we often take for granted--our clean water.

The Integrated Approach

Many of teachers' successful efforts to spark children's interest in environmental issues have resulted from an integrated approach. Some children living in coastal areas, for example, wrote letters to the editor publicizing campaigns to clean up the beaches. In one Florida coastal town, children and their families disposed of 170 tons of litter. As a follow-up activity, many teachers asked children to create graphs and tables that showed the amounts of different materials they collected. This activity, in addition to demonstrating the children's sense of activism, integrated math, science, social studies, and language arts skills.

Use of Books and Videos

Excellent books are available that introduce elementary children to the core principles for environmental action, with an interesting overview of the major problems that cry out for solutions: importance of the rain forests, water cycles, and the need to renew, reuse, and recycle (e.g., Pearce, 1991). Science projects based on ecology can be carried out by children in their classrooms. Most feature an integrated approach (Needham, 1998; Van Cleave, 1996). Once excellent video for introducing children to ecology projects is "My First Green Video: A Kid's Guide to Ecology" (Sony, 1993). For example, after planting their own tree seeds (using acorns or seeds from cut fruit), children could record their seedlings' growth by writing in their science journals, drawing, or making graphs.

Kids REALLY Can Make a Difference

Children also may wish to join others in sharing news of their environmental activities. One group, Kids F.A.C.E., has a club format, an online newsletter and a Web site that invites children to share their activities with others. Group members in Minnesota are engaged in a research study on the declining population of frogs and toads. Since 1987, the founders of The Tree Musketeers (now college age) have inspired more than 50,000 members to plant trees in their communities. (Check out http://www.kidsface.org/ and http://www.treemusketeers.org for more information.)

As they have done with peace education courses, individual teachers can get the message out to children that their actions to help the environment really can make a difference.

References

ACEI. (2000). Resolution of the Public Affairs Committee and Statement; Children & War. Activist, 12(2), 4.

Needham, B. (1998). Ecology crafts for kids: 50 great ways to make friends with Planet Earth. New York: Sterling Publishing.

Pearce, F. (1991). The big green book. New York: Grosset & Dunlap. My first green video: A kids' guide to ecology. (1993). New York: Sony.

--Aline Stomfay-Stitz, University of North Florida, astomfay@unf.edu and Edyth Wheeler, Towson University, ewheeler@gmu.edu
COPYRIGHT 2001 Association for Childhood Education International
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Title Annotation:education about the environment
Author:Stomfay-Stitz, Aline
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2001
Words:633
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