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Hands-On Methods for Teaching Conservation in the Classroom

Trying to convey to kids, especially young children, that the planet they live on is in trouble is challenging. Though high school students may have a better grasp at the urgency they need to adopt as they get older, it can be pretty terrifying to hear when you're six or seven that the world is heating up, the polar caps are melting, and humans are destroying ecosystems both on land and in the sea.

While the grim facts might be factual in science, to students, they sound like issues that adults should have solved a long time ago. Unfortunately, we haven't. The responsibility will eventually fall to the younger generations to maintain any conservation techniques we implement today. That's why we need to introduce conservation to our students in ways that won't "freak them out" but still stress the importance of taking such steps.

The best way to do this is through experiential techniques. 

These hands-on methods for teaching conservation in the school will help kids learn how to conserve the environment, one decision at a time.

1. Make Your Classroom Green Conscious

Conservation is all about having safeguards that protect nature from harm. To help students appreciate conservation more, lead by example and make your classroom greener. There are many easy ways to 'Green Up' your classroom, and they can be as simple as using less paper or recycling waste.

Teach how what they use every day can create waste. Snack packages, juice boxes, and water bottles, for instance, are often made with both renewable and non-renewable resources. But no matter the substance, when discarded, they create waste. Teach them what they can recycle, the pros and cons of using certain materials, like plastic and wood, and how they affect the environment.

Though you can't supply your entire class with Tupperware or washable baggies, purchase reusable water bottles for your students if it's in your budget. This is a simple way to encourage them to use less plastic and produce less waste. You can also set up a recycling bin for paper scraps, plastic bottles, and other recyclable materials. 

2. Use Carbon Calculators

Every choice we make has a consequence. When it comes to conservation, the effects of our actions can be dangerous. Use online carbon footprint calculators designed for their age groups to help learners relate to conservation concepts and understand how their choices can harm the planet.

A resource like this carbon calculator assists users in recognizing how their household, transportation, and food choices are connected to harmful carbon emissions. Using such tools can assist students in getting an accurate picture of their carbon footprint.

Be real with your students. Obviously, not everyone is going to have the resources to lower their carbon footprint exponentially. Instead, set realistic goals. Ask them how they think they can lower it in small ways. 

3. Go On A Litter Hike

Class-based lessons are helpful, but nothing says 'we need to save nature' more than a trip outdoors. Whether in rural or urban areas, the outdoors always have something to teach about conservation—and there's bound to be trash. This exercise may be better suited to older students as younger students may not properly handle litter.

While outside, you may want to point out the plant and animal life around them. As the students clean up the plastic or paper waste, engage them in discussions on how humans affect nature. Teach them that everything in nature has a cycle and when plants grow and expire, they decompose to enrich the soil, just as litter, when and if it decomposes can leech chemicals into the soil.

4. Show Real-Life and Pop Culture Examples In Class

Don't just talk conservation, show it. Use images, videos, and real-life examples. Call back to "Captain Planet" or 1972's "Silent Running" for older students for pop culture references. When designing activities for younger students, take care not to scare them with gloomy info about environmental destruction. Keep things upbeat and hopeful. The idea is that we can make a positive difference, despite challenges.

Indigenous Communities Do it Best

Long before the race for conservation began, indigenous communities around the globe had incredible ways of taking care of nature. Communities in the Americas, the Arctic, Africa, and Asia learned to tame nature by developing reciprocal relationships. They restored native animal and plant species, collected information on habitats, and avoided the exploitation of Mother Nature.

Showcasing such communities through pictures and videos can teach students that humans can develop strong connections to nature. Activities that can complement the lessons include challenging kids to copy some conservation methods the indigenous people perfect.

Young Environmentalists Make a Difference

There are many environmental heroes alive today, and there's a massive number of young, inspirational conservation warriors. There's no shortage of young people to reference, from influential environmental activists like Greta Thunberg to young innovators in the country.

Some activities implemented efficiently by young environmentalists across the country include e-waste recycling, solid waste disposal, and reforestation. Inspire your students to read the stories of these young leaders and organize events to help them discover their conservation spirits.

Utilize Student Resources

Educators know that early education has an impact on the development of sustainable development habits. To identify valuable student resources, check out lists provided by verifiable sites like the United Nations. Some fun and exciting materials to spice up conservation efforts in the classroom include the Climate Action Superhero, Climate Box, and Be a Food Hero Like Peter Rabbit.

Kids Are The Conservation Heroes We Need

Our world is changing fast and what children learn today has the power to influence their thoughts and decisions in the future. As teachers, we have the opportunity to motivate and direct learners with proper knowledge and materials on their responsibilities to the environment. 

When given the right direction, young learners can take the initiative and inspire change in their communities. Engaging students with hands-on activities can help them appreciate the meaning of conservation and its value to their and our future.


Written by Simon Riitho
Education World Contributor
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