Why teaching kids about the environment matters

Published on Monday, August 26, 2013

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Evaluating a school or home's energy use offers a great lesson plan in environmental education.

Evaluating a school or home's energy use offers a great lesson plan in environmental education.


Learning about saving energy and the environment will do more than just help kids save money as adults -- it can help them develop math and science skills, and foster a sense of responsibility.

From which appliance to buy to save the most energy, to what temperature to set the thermostat, we are faced with choices that can impact us individually and have global ramifications.

Experts say that it’s vital to provide the next generation with real world learning opportunities about how their individual and collective choices affect their lives and the whole planet.

"Environmental education is an excellent and practical way to teach critical thinking and problem solving," says Kathy McGlauflin, Director of Project Learning Tree, an environmental education program. "It helps young people apply science and math skills in meaningful ways, and introduces them to careers in the growing green jobs industry."

More importantly, she said, giving kids the knowledge they need to protect the environment will have a positive impact on the world for decades to come.

McGlauflin says that a good place to start is to get kids to consider energy use. Encourage kids to investigate how much energy their family and school uses, the main sources of that energy and ways to implement energy-saving strategies. Set a goal and get kids to calculate the savings from one month’s utility bill to the next, or over a period of time.
Here are some ideas to get started:

• Work together to switch old lighting with newer energy efficient bulbs. Ask kids to do a little arithmetic to determine how much longer your new fluorescent or CFL bulbs will last. Take advantage of natural lighting whenever possible.

• Spend a day in the yard planting trees that provide strategic shade. Doing so can help reduce your energy consumption.

• Dress for the weather, so you can adjust your heating or air conditioning thermostat for reduced energy use.

• Encourage kids to turn off their electronics and get outside.

• Turn off lights and appliances, such as computers when they’re not in use.

• Wash only full loads, and open the door of your dishwasher after the final rinse cycle to allow air drying.

• If possible, walk or bike to school.

• Kids can make changes outside the home too. Get your child's school to go green by incorporating environmental education activities into school curricula. New programming, such as PLT’s GreenSchools!, provides students, teachers and school staff members with tools, training and resources -- such as an Energy and Society kit, that fosters critical thinking and creates healthier schools.

Reducing energy use saves natural resources and can lead to significant financial savings. Do your pocketbook and the planet a favor, teach your kids to save energy and be part of the next generation of environmental stewardship.


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