By Barbara Kessler
Looking for inspiration among the raft of discouraging reports about our environment?
Then get ready to lift your spirits by moving into action on Earth Day, which is fast upon us on April 22, and which has actually morphed into Environmental Education Week, April 15 to 22.
EE Week is brainchild of the National Environmental Education & Training Foundation which was set up by Congress in 1990 to foster environmental education. So their website does not trumpet alarms about global warming, per se. Still, they clearly get the big picture and have declared the 2007 EE week will focus on energy conservation.
Is there a place for you in this observance? Yes. The NEETF expects this EE week to be the “single largest organized environmental education event in U.S. history” and hopes to enlist 100,000 educators, 3 million students and 5000 Earth Day projects.
Even with the qualifiers, that’s ambitious.
You can get the lay of the land and sign on as a participant on the registration page of their website.
Next, visit their page listing 10 Energy Activities for teachers and students. Some of the activities aim to help kids become more aware of the energy they use in their homes and schools, including the power drain of keeping an ipod plugged in after it’s been charged. Other activities go further, empowering kids to conduct energy audits of their schools or challenging them to plant trees.
For other curriculum ideas, the NEETF has compiled a list of activities generated by organizations across the country and available for use by teachers or homeschoolers or in some cases, just kids and parents at home.
Some of the projects are best geared to the classroom. For instance, the Texas Watt Watchers’ Real Projects with Real Results program tells teens how to conduct an energy audit of their schools and do the math to calculate the dollar savings. Kids could probably relate to saving $142 a year just to light a vending machine. Multiply that by even four vending machines in a given school and you’re into savings of $548 — real money even to a jaded adolescent.
Having known a few young computer game hounds, I noticed that several of the suggested websites also offer simple, but educational, games for elementary and middle school kids.
Colorado’s Energyhog.org had some children’s games that were a kick to play. I was able to match refrigerator contents fast enough to create an entire fleet of Energy Star refrigerators. (Yeah, me!) But I was far too slow caulking windows to keep the “Energy Hogs” from creeping up and leaping in. (The game, in fact, reminded me a bit of the cult film Night of the Living Dead in which the protagonists fight to keep the zombies out. Fortunately, Energy Hog is a friendly cartoon figure and not at all zombiesque.)
The National Arbor Day Foundation also hosts several kids games, such as Treevial Pursuit, that educate the youngest kids about trees and their role in healing the environment.
Why aim so much of this at kids, when we adults have largely created the problem? Well, the answer to that is twofold. First, we adults must take the lead. But obviously kids are getting pelted with the bad news, just as we are. The NEETF cites a 2006 MTV poll that found teens put environmental issues at the top of their list of worries. So the group thought it better to give them the tools for change than to leave them adrift in a (warming) sea of headlines.
So take heart, be part of the solution and savor the positive — so many fine minds, including those incubating in our classrooms, are working to solve our ecological crises.