Earth Day 2013 has a compelling theme: Climate Change. What an outstanding opportunity to empower kids and teens to know our every day decisions and actions impact our environment. All these impacts add up to protecting our planet or causing our climate to change more rapidly.
Can even young children understand about climate change? Absolutely! As described in Make a Splash! A Kids Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands, “Some climate change is natural. Earth’s climate has cycles and patterns. Temperatures rise and fall. However, most scientists agree that human actions have made these changes bigger and faster. Human actions can also help slow down these changes.
“Greenhouse gases are a big cause of climate change. These are gases that build up in the air and make our planet warmer. Carbon dioxide is a common greenhouse gas. When we burn oil and coal to run cars, factories, electrical plants, and farms, we produce a lot of carbon dioxide. Some of it stays in the air and some of it goes into the water.”
We can all do our part to reduce greenhouse gases. This is especially urgent because our oceans absorb up to half of this carbon dioxide that we produce. That’s too much for our waters.
Ready for Action
- Promote walking and biking campaigns—Great for exercise and no carbon dioxide.
- Turn off and unplug—Yes, turn off lights at school and home. Teach your school community about unplugging electronics when not in use. For an exceptional resource with all you need for school and home energy audits, visit EarthEcho International (see resources below) and click on the Water Planet Challenge Action Guides. Select You Have the Power! for an entire service learning guide to energy reduction.
- Reduce—When you use less, less has to be produced. Do a classroom inventory of ways less could be used. Or, when something is used and you are done with it, then . . .
- Reuse—Be clever; look for ways to reuse an item before you throw it away. Want to create a t-shirt with an Earth Day message? Take a used one and turn it inside out. Now you will give a double message!
- Recycle–Often recycling is misunderstood. Learn about what can be recycled and help others know how to sort their trash. Visit www.terracycle.com for ways to recycle and upcycle items you would normally throw in landfills.
- Compost—Reducing critical food waste reduces greenhouse gases in landfills. Start composting in schools and educate the entire community. Download the Rethinking Waste Water Planet Challenge Action Guide (see Resources:Websites).
- Be Litter Free—Even little litter adds us. Read about the Plant Your Butts and Be Straw Free campaigns in Make a Splash! Remember that litter often ends up in storm drains and gets a free ride into our oceans (oh no!). Have fun teaching others; turn the hilarious book The Wartville Wizard into a play, a great antidote for litter.
- Talk, Talk Talk—In Make a Splash! and in Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands read how your words can be shaped as an elevator speech and have a ripple effect. Turn your words into a message, a letter, or make a video.
Earth Day is the perfect time to launch into action. And then remember to turn every day into Earth Day!
The Carbon Diaries, 2015by Sachi Lloyd (Holiday House, 2009) In this London-based story, follow a teen as the community goes on a carbon restricted plan in response to a global crises. Young adult fiction
The Curse of Akkad: Climate Upheavals that Rocked Human History by Peter Christie (Annick Press, 2008) An historical overview of human encounters with climate change from earliest recorded history to the present. Riveting!
Going Blue: A Kids Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye with Philippe Cousteau and EarthEcho International (Free Spirit Publishing, 2013) What we need to know and plenty of examples of youth taking action to protect our waters and planet.
A Kids’ Guide to Climate Change & Global Warmingby Cathryn Berger Kaye (Free Spirit Publishing, 2009) A service learning interdisciplinary guide to making a plan and taking action.
Make a Splash! A Kids Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye with Philippe Cousteau and EarthEcho International (Free Spirit Publishing, 2013) An engaging book to help children understand the role of water on our planet and find a myriad of ways to protect our watery planet. Many example of children taking action.
The Wartville Wizard by Don Madden (Aladdin, 1993) A timeless tale of a wizard sending littered items to stick to the litterer! Hilarious!
www.abcdbooks.org This website from Cathryn Berger Kaye offers resources and a catalogue of books to support service learning. Soon to be updated!
www.earthecho.org/programs/water-planet-challenge EarthEcho International’s Water Planet Challenges offers multiple service learning Action Guides authored by Cathryn Berger Kaye all free for downloading. Two have been referenced in this article: You Have the Power! and Rethinking Waste.
http://schools.stopwaste.org Stop Waste at School offers outstanding examples and resources from the Oakland, California region with replicable ideas.
www.terracycle.com TerraCycle offers ways for schools to send in hard to recycle items and earn as they go.