Climate Action in action
At every school in our District there are many amazing examples of how educators are working hard to get kids learning about and engaged in Climate Action initiatives: from the community gardens kids are tending at our schools to the bees hives atop NWSS, or on to initiatives like the Turn Down the Heat Challenge that our District sites participated in last March. There’s a lot on the go between the Green Teams at each school.
Here, in the midst of this season of renewal, we’re seeing many of those teaching opportunities amplified as lessons are more easily shifting outside.
To provide a peek into what climate action looks like inside and outside our schools, we talked to two classrooms of kids at Connaught Heights Elementary … for a look at how Climate Action starts in knowledge, connection to the earth, and an understanding that it’s possible to make change happen if we work together.
How Connaught students are going and growing green
On a sunny but cool spring day, two classrooms of students gathered in the courtyard at Connaught Heights Elementary: Mrs. Wong’s excited kindies stood alongside Ms. Amy’s grade 5 “big buddies.” Once partnered up, the pairs made their way to the grass field and playground, each with a pair of tongs between them to go engage in a little clean up. They found everything from a soggy lost mitten that had fallen behind a bush to snack wrappers that had failed to make it to the bin. Each was carefully collected in a bucket and examined.
Partners Rowan and Michael said that they really liked taking a few minutes to do this job together for their school and community. “This makes me feel good. Because we’re helping the earth,” was Michael’s reflection. And Rowan added in a sense of urgency that he felt they were tackling, “It’s important because we are actually hurting the planet we live on. And if we don’t change, we won’t have things like fresh air.”
At the end of the short exercise in global citizenship, students and staff gathered to discuss the job they’d just tackled. Students spoke about their pride, and they shared wonders as they weighed the personal accomplishment of having felt like they made a difference against the thought of a time when there would hopefully be a little less to clean up.
When prompted by their teachers to question if it was possible to do this kind of work alone, a chorus of soft “no’s” came out … leading into the powerful final part of this particular lesson, as Mrs. Wong confirmed that point, “That’s right, we can not do this alone. That’s why we do this collectively, because we have to work together to make change happen.”
Planting for pollinators
As they took leave of their little buddies, Ms. Amy’s class then moved on to a different part of their Climate Action projects: planting wildflowers as part of their commitment to learn about the important role of plants and pollinators.
(For more on the Butterfly Way Project that inspired this activity, you can find out how you can participate at home here: https://davidsuzuki.org/take-action/act-locally/butterflyway/ )
First, students gathered around their planting bed, and they talked about the goals: attract more pollinators (bees and butterflies). Together the students reflected on a few reasons why there were fewer bees, they talked about how important pollinators are in growing the food we all count on, and they shared feelings again of hope as they talked about taking action. One student even commented on how important it was to learn about these things in school, because “We have to learn how to help and how to teach this to other generations too.”
Then, one-by-one each and every student took a pinch of seed, scattered them on the bed of dirt (which they had previously created using bowls, shovels and any other thing they could scoop and carry dirt with), and the students finally squirted the fresh seeds with a bit of water to help them set up and root.
In this process, each of them are planting seeds and raising hopes for a more engaged and committed future.
Kindies dig in
Back in Mrs. Wong’s kindergarten class the kids were engaged by getting their hands dirty.
A couple young girls held handfuls of wiggling worms and compost mix, giggling as the worms tickled the palms of their hands and the girls talked about how the worms chew the apple and vegetable skins so “they can poop out” the richer composted dirt. Mrs. Wong added her own learnings and expertise in, commenting about how adding newspaper to the worm bin helps balance the gas … as she continues to refine these lessons that get these young learners involved in hands-on ways.
The dirt the worms create then helps feed the plants that the students tend … and it highlights for all that the cycles of nature are connected from seed to soil.
And whether it’s the potatoes they’ve each planted and cared for inside the classroom, or the beds full of fruits, flowers and herbs that all get worked into later learning opportunities, what’s consistent is: these lessons have kids inspired, caring and knowing their actions can have a positive impact on the the world around them.
As a District, we know Climate Action Education is vital, and that the lessons need to scale with age and level of understanding, but we also know we need to consider our own environmental impact as we determine investments and opportunities. From converting lights, to installing heat pumps and upgrading schools, you may also be interested in reading this recent article by Julie MacLellan at The New Westminster Record, as she tracked some of what New Westminster Schools is doing to “go green”: https://www.newwestrecord.ca/local-news/going-green-in-new-westminster-how-one-small-bc-school-district-is-fighting-climate-change-5243047