Video: Researchers in Antarctica have discovered rapidly growing banks of mosses on the ice continent's northern peninsula, providing striking evidence of climate change in the coldest and most remote parts of the planet. Buzz60
When talking with your kids about climate change, communicating “the sense that you can do something to improve a scary situation" is key, said Lisa Hoyos, director of Climate Parents, which has members in 50 states and advocates for clean energy and climate solutions, as well as climate change education in schools.
Rowan County Teacher Jennifer Pecco, who was named Kentucky’s Outstanding Pre-K-12 Environmental Educator last year, also uses the same approach with her students and her own kids.
“I think sometimes we can overwhelm them,” she said. “We just start throwing facts at them. They have to know there’s some way to help. Otherwise, they’re going to feel overwhelmed.”
She and her sixth-grade students started a school recycling program and collect paper every week. Some of her students have extended this beyond school hours, encouraging their parents to start recycling. Pecco, who said her class doesn’t focus on climate change so much as fostering environmental stewardship, said there are little things kids can do at home to make a difference, like reusing otherwise disposable containers for storage.
Hoyos, who has two sons, said it’s also critical to encourage kids to think big. Help them brainstorm ways to have a larger-scale impact on a particular issue — what's the root of the problem? Is there something to be done politically? Can you encourage a company to change its behaviors?
“Our kids need to feel comfortable in exercising their democratic right to secure the paths to their own future,” Hoyos said.
Talk about animals
Children's love of animals can be a natural gateway to both talking more and learning more about environmental issues, Hoyos said.
When Hoyos' son developed a love for lemurs, she encouraged him to learn about how they're affected by deforestation and how deforestation contributes to climate change. This is especially effective for younger children who "seem to really gravitate toward protecting creatures," she said, but it's also a tactic science teacher Monique Brown uses with her eighth-grade students at Olmsted Academy South in Louisville.
Her students are invested in how climate change affects wildlife. “Everybody cries whenever a polar bear is hurt or homeless,” she said. After the kids learn about how climate change affects animals, Brown then extends the conversation to how humans are both affected by and contribute to climate change.
Be in nature
If you want to talk about environmental issues with your kids, one of the best places to start is by simply going outside.
Parents need to get their kids outdoors, Pecco said, and they need to go outside with them. Doing so allows both parents and kids to “see they’re also a part of the natural cycle and what we do affects the environment,” she said.
Pecco, who is a mother of four, does this by going on day trips with her kids to natural landmarks across the state or going hiking together. They also spend a lot of their time gardening, which lends itself to conversations about how growing your own produce requires fewer resources than buying mass-produced foods.
Iman Al Khalidi paints a water bottle to be used as a vase at Olmsted Academy South. (Photo: By Michael Clevenger, C-J)
Examine your daily habits and learn from your kids
The things you do every day can also be a natural segue into conversations, Brown said. Asking kids whether they leave the water running when they brush their teeth, for example, can lead to discussions about conservation. For Hoyos, having an electric car allowed her to explain to her kids that technology can be used to cut down on carbon emissions.
It’s important to set an example for your kids, Brown said, and it's also important for parents to learn from their children. Spending time with her students in class, Brown said she's surprised "how much more they care than adults do." Her students will continue the discussions started in the classroom at home, sharing what they learn with their families.
"I think that for the students, taking these conversations home helps their parents and their friends or whoever in the community to realize that small changes can have huge impacts,” Brown said.
Online resources for kids
Here are some resources Brown, Hoyos and Pecco recommend for parents wanting to help their kids learn more about climate change and other environmental issues.
NASA ClimateKids: a website with games, activities and more
Alliance for Climate Education: the group's website, good for older kids, has information about climate change and ways to get involved
imatteryouth.org: a youth-driven campaign fighting climate change
World Wildlife Fund: apps and games to help kids learn more about conservation issues
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: data, videos and more
Follow Kirsten Clark on Twitter: @kirstenlmclark
original story HERE
Click here for a new book about the global warming emergency and what you can do.
Donate to help end Global Warming