Teaching HOPE for the Environment

Approach is Everything

It’s hard not to be negative sometimes.  In the past when I taught my “Human Impact on the Environment” unit, I always felt like I was teaching the kids that doom and gloom is everywhere…  pollution, habitat destruction, climate woes, extinction, overharvested resources.  And worse… it came across as kind of hopeless.

I never felt quite right about this approach, despite it all being true.  So, a few years back I decided to switch my “spin”.

Now, instead of making it as though our Earth is destined for demise, I present all the ways that kids can HELP.  We do not have to accept that the Earth is going to have an awful fate.  We can change this!  And our kiddos are the ones to do it!  It’s our job to help them feel that they have the power to make change. If you feel the same, resolve to change your approach this year.  Here are a few thoughts:

Change Your Approach

Approach the topics from a problem/solution mindset.  Present the problem first, but spend more time on what can be done to impart change.  The whole focus shouldn’t be on the problem…  the focus should be on how to fix it.  

Choose Your Language Wisely

Use language that instills ownership of the solution.  When you speak about environmental problems, don’t lump kids in with the “bad”.  When teachers only use “we” when talking about solutions, it allows kids to see themselves as the problem-fixers.  

Highlight the Good

Reach out to local environmental groups to show kids what good is happening.  The free website EnvironmentalGroups.us has an awesome clickable map of the U.S. that pulls up lots of environmental groups by state.  Reach out to one near you to find out what classroom resources they have.  In my experience, groups like this are excited and prepared to share their work with students!

Promote Participation

Facilitate participation in an environmental study.  (Easier than it sounds!)  Use this free resource to have kids participate in a Citizens Science project.  Citizen Science projects are a great way to help kids see that they can contribute to environmental studies.  So-called “other people” don’t do the work.  WE can do the work!  

Click for Citizens Science Project

Highlight Local Issues

Assign a LOCAL ECOSYSTEMS problem/solution project.  At the conclusion of my Human Impact unit, I do a research project where kids look into a problem in a local ecosystem and propose a solution.  I tailored this to our school’s town, but I also created a version that can be used in any town.  I often hear back from students that this project helped them to feel like something can be done

Click for Hometown Project

Something CAN Be Done

It’s not hopeless. Environment issues can be lessened or even resolved. As teachers, we are in a better position than anyone to impart change. Teaching kids that they can make a difference is on us. LET’S DO THIS!

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