I bet your kids are talking about recycling in school today. I bet they made some earth-shaped crafts, or something similar. I’m sure their teachers talked to them about the importance of caring for our planet. All of that is great, and a worthy thing to teach kids. But have you ever thought about sustainability in your daily life or how to teach kids about sustainability? This article is meant as a way for you to introduce you to sustainability for kids.
Since today is Earth Day, I figured it is about time that I share more about my experience and thoughts on sustainability. For three years, I actually traveled the world teaching kids and museum educators about sustainability. I worked for the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU and I got to travel to museums across the world, met a lot of interesting people, and taught museum professionals how to educate other people about sustainability.
Honestly, this was probably my favorite job in my life. It was so meaningful to me because it literally changed my worldview. I think a lot more about being a good steward of the planet and how to care for the people who live on it. I traveled to four continents and met the most amazing people from over 30 countries and all 50 states. I’ve seen many sustainability challenges that are hard to envision from a U.S. context (my trip to South Africa was especially eye-opening). Being able to meet so many interesting people, experience so many new places, and think about how we can ensure our planet is healthy for generations to come was very rewarding.
What is a Sustainability Definition for Kids?
Before I started that job, I knew very little about sustainability. I cared about nature, but beyond recycling and using a reusable water bottle, I wasn’t very sustainable myself. So what is sustainability? Well, it’s more than just recycling or taking care of our planet. It’s also about promoting social justice, making sure our environment is protected and resilient, and ensuring economic prosperity.
How to Teach Kids About Sustainability
I totally understand why schools focus on teaching kids about recycling as the main way they can help the planet. Even when I was a kid, they touted reduce, reuse, and recycle. And that adage is still super important. Yet, there is so much more that kids can start to learn about sustainability at a young age. One of the main tenants of sustainability is social justice and equity for all people. So beyond just thinking about the planet, it’s also about thinking about how we can ensure all people have access to resources and jobs so they can live a good quality of life.
Teaching Sustainability in Schools
Sustainability Activities for Kids
If you’re looking for neat activities, these are the activities that we created when I worked at ASU. Future Builder is our personal favorite because it teaches the three pillars of sustainability – society, economy, and environment – and helps kids start to learn about tradeoffs associated with sustainability decision-making. Depending on what they choose, they could benefit the environment, people, or the economy.
Other Things You Can Do and Consider
I’ve written a few other stories about sustainability. I know that a topic like sustainability can be quite overwhelming. If you’re interested in learning more about different aspects of living a more sustainable life, here are some other stories I’ve written.