In 2016, many parents are concerned about the Earth they will leave behind for their children. Combating climate change, air and water pollution, and resource depletion is on a lot of people’s minds. Many families have systems in place at home to reduce, reuse, recycle. However, schools (where most kids spend much of their waking hours) need to reinforce these environmental values if kids are really going to develop sustainable habits for life. Young children have no idea what it takes to make one sheet of paper, so they have no problem scribbling on page after page just to throw it in the recycling bin. Awareness needs to come from a place of community understanding and stewardship, we shouldn’t shame children into conservation. So how can Child Care centers, Day Camps, Preschools and Nursery Schools follow through with environmental care without depleting the valuable art and classroom opportunities that kids need? What can parents do to reinforce responsible policies and practices?
- Pack lunches and snacks in reusable container and lunch bags. Water bottles instead of juice boxes, a real spoon over a plastic spoon, a tangerine instead of a single serving cup of fruit in a plastic container. No need to run out to get all new stainless expensive re-usable stuff when a repurposed soft drink bottle for water and a washed out yogurt tub with a lid will do just fine.
- Create an art portfolio for your children’s most special artwork, and recycle the rest.
- Walk or bike to school when possible, and talk about sparing the air. Carpool!
- Donate used items to thrift stores, and shop there with your children too. Until kids are eight or nine, they have no awareness if their or their classmates clothing is new or used. Vintage clothing is cool !
- Dress children in warm layers to keep the cold out, rather than turning up the heat
Teachers & Centers Can:
- Have kids use personal chalkboards instead of paper for art and school work
- Melt old crayon pieces and turn them into new crayons
- Install faucet aerators on sinks to conserve water
- Consider solar panels for the school
- Implement a class compost bin for lunch and snack scraps, or start a worm bin
- Have an outdoor painting wall that is washed or painted over and reused, rather than an easel with paper
- Serve snacks that are not individually packaged
- Have a class recycling bin
- Use plant-based biodegradable paints
- Implement a “scrap bin” for used pieces of paper that can be repurposed
- Use rags and towels instead of paper towels and wipes, whenever possible
- Collect and use items like cardboard paper towel tubes, shoe boxes, tissue boxes, oatmeal canisters, gift wrap and tissue paper, and old magazines to use as art supplies or as storage containers.
- Limit the use of food items such as rice, beans, and dry pasta as art materials. When you do use them in art projects, talk about food scarcity in many countries.
When everyone around them is using these and other ideas to minimize waste and maximize environmental benefit, children learn it as just a way of life, and it becomes an ingrained part of their outlook on the world. As adults they will be more aware and more prone to environmental values and conservation, without having to make major life changes as the generations before them struggled with. We will not only leave our children with a more healthy Earth but provide them the skills perspective to maintain and improve it.
Prime Time Early Learning Centers serving families in Paramus, Oradell and Ridgewood New Jersey and in Farmingdale and Melville New York value the natural environment that sustains all life on earth. Prime Time’s 20 point “Growing Green” program teaches young children about nature and the importance of protecting our air, water, land and resources so they may practice and promote these healthy values in their lives and teach them to the next generation.