We need to talk about the bees: Gastbeitrag von Kate

Dieser Artikel darüber, wie Kindern Zero Waste erklärt werden kann, ist ein Beitrag zur #plasticfreejuly Aktion von Auf die Hand, die dieses Jahr von einigen plastikfrei-, Zero Waste-, Garten-, DIY-Blogs, -Instagramerinnen, – Youtubern gemeinsam gestaltet wird. Die Beiträge aller Teilnehmer*innen findest du in dieser Auflistung.
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Foto: @zerowaste_kate

Hi, I’m Kate from Zero Waste Kate. I see Zero Waste as a lifestyle rather than a definative. However, for me, as a past Paralympic medalist, this is where my competative side pops up. I love the challenge of finding plastic free alternatives to things I need. While this approach may seem extreme to many, I believe that the bleak prospects for our global environment are even more so. It takes only baby changes to make an impact.

But as a teacher: How do you help children understand the importance of waste reduction without giving them night terrors or scaring the complete living daylights out of them?

Foto: Zero Waste Kate

‘Sit down little Timmy, we need to talk about the birds and bees. This is how it’s going to work, if the bees die out.. well, the birds will soon die out then we’ll all die out’.

Probably not the most ideal way to help your little ones grasp the devastating future effects of consumerism or climate change without causing sudden onset childhood depression. However, is painting a picture of our planet for your child as a garden of eden / paradise / utopia as to not upset their fragile dispositions any better? Maybe but not by much.

Here’s hoping the following will help you to find ideas for a happy medium ground where Timmy only needs to panic for a little while before understanding that he also holds the power to create change in his hands.

A few years ago I decided to undertake a six week unit of learning with my grade two class about the three R’s = Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. At the time I was worried that it would be a rather bland unit of work. But as soon as we started researching the ‘why’ of being a tree hugging hippy, we discovered the situation we were in as humans was more of an ‘up the proverbial creek/raging river without a paddle’ type of position. The class quickly turned into an effective swarm of local activists who occasionally harassed local supermarket shoppers if they used plastic bags but also changed quite a few of their own and family shopping habits as well.

While researching, we came across footage of animals suffering tragically from plastic consumption, children picking over mountains of filthy trash sent to their country from other far wealthier places and beautiful rainforests, which they had previously wondered in awe at, razed to the ground in search of oil. We learnt together that our use of plastics was killing our planet. I received emails from concerned parents that their kiddos couldn’t sleep for worry about the state of our earth to which all I could answer was ‘yes me too’.  I truly and firmly believe that children have the absolute right to understand what is happening to our planet environmentally, how their actions can contribute positively or negatively and that they do indeed have the power to choose and insight change. I really wonder how many children will ask their parents in the future as to why they were not told about the climate crisis, the destruction of forests or the demise of our oceans.

It is not all doom and gloom I hope. We do not necessarily need to sit our children down and tell them we will all die if we use plastic or burn images of strangled turtles and plastic filled bird carcasses into their retinas. Never fear! There is a happy medium. But it is also ok for your child to feel disturbed by our precarious situation. It is a dire emergency after all which directly impacts the quality of ​their​ future. We can at least help them build the paddles to steer themselves away from the torrent towards a quieter stream.

I’ve put together ten ways in which you can help your ankle biter build awareness of the importance of waste reduction while having fun and without scaring the pants off them.

1. Go outside!

Foto: Zero Waste Kate

How can children be expected to know the incredible beauty and value in the world if they do not get to see it? By getting outside, be it in the mud, amongst the trees, at the beach or park (minus smartphone) children are allowed to become fascinated by the little details in nature as the big ones. Let them climb, get dirty, ask questions, sweat, be curious and be in awe of the world. Explain to them how ecosystems work, if one part is taken away then the system collapses. Even the littlest understand. Let them discover! You might just rediscover some things too.

2. Talk about it

Information is power and that goes for children too. Be honest and clear about why and how the earth is heating up. For example, today I explained to my class of mainly six year olds about how the incineration of plastics causes harmful gases. And why recycling is not going to be our saviour. Yes they asked questions. Great! Keep asking. But they got it. If questions come up around why bees are dying don’t tell them, ‘It’s that tooth fairy must be doing a bad job’, research together and learn about it. The facts will arm them with the ability to choose if they are ok with their actions or not.

3. Collect your rubbish

It’s not as gross as you think. Think of it as a fun family challenge. Collect your plastic for a day, week, month, whatever timeframe suits you and really look at what you have. Now go outside, all of you, and imagine each of your neighbours having the same amount. Then the neighbourhood! It’s a lot! Try to see where you can reduce your waste. You’ll be surprised at how clever they are at thinking of alternatives. I like this strategy as it is a great visual for kids and focuses on reduction not entire elimination. Every little bit is a win.

4. Read read read!

As Dr Seuss says, ‘The more you read, the more you know. The more you know, the more places you go!’ Reading has endless benefits and not only for educational purposes. Children’s books have a magical way of explaining tricky issues that are often beyond our capabilities to express as adults. Here is a list of some beautiful children’s books that I have read and reread to my classes that have brilliant messages about environmental issues. On this note, make use of your local library! Not only is it 99% free but they also have an amazing selection of children’s environmental awareness books, the wonderful librarians can recommend other books AND you can order in any book that you would like for a very small fee at most libraries and be the first to read it. Win win!

Foto: Zero Waste Kate
  • The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein
  • The Lorax (not the movie please) – Dr Seuss
  • Seeds of Change – Wangari Maathai
  • Home – Jeannie Baker
  • The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley (consumerism) – Colin Thompson
  • Seagull (plastic pollution) – Danny Snell
  • World Without Fish – Mark Kurlansky
  • The Trouble with Dragons – Debi Gliori
  • Also the movie Wall-E is pretty great at a sneak peak into a future full of waste.

This is just a list of my personal favourites. Please add to the list if you have any more suggestions!

5. Experiences over things

Apparently now a gift registry for kids birthday parties is an actual thing. Who knew?! I only learnt this recently and was quite shocked. No one really wants their child to become a Dudley Vernon do they? My good friend recently found a ballet karate fusion class held in the opera theatre and taught by professional ballet dancers for her daughter’s birthday. How cool is that?! And something she will never forget. There’s so much research now supporting the crazy concept that it’s spending time with people we treasure and taking part in ​engaging activities that sticks in our memories rather than yet another plastic trinket. It’s really never about the thing (often overdosed in packaging) is it? It’s about the acknowledgment that the receiver is valued by the giver. Buying ’stuff‘ holds a few short moments of excitement and a bit of a high but it very very quickly fades, ready for a new hit of new stuff while the old is forgotten and most likely thrown away. Again, there is no perfect, no 100% correct and no one right way. It’s about the trying and being imperfect. So no feeling guilty for buying a much adored item! Go for quality and longevity instead.

6. Grow food

Foto: Zero Waste Kate

Kids become crazy excited over the process of planting seeds, watching them grow, caring for them and gobbling them up. In one class I taught in Brisbane (thank you Buranda State School heaven), it was more difficult to stop them eating everything and anything in the school garden. If you don’t have much space, don’t worry, a few salad or herb seeds in a pot are great. My all time favourite in my last balcony-less apartment was growing sprouts in a jar. These are wonderful to grow with kids as they can see the whole story within a glass. Added benefit of being extra healthy! Growing food, however much or little it is, helps children to understand the time and care it takes to create food. So many children nowadays have little knowledge about where food actually comes from or even how fruit or veggies really taste when they are package, plastic and pesticide free.

7. Find community events

Where I live in Munich, there are community events coming out of our ears that involve children participating in environmental actions. For example, there are often river clean ups, craft workshops using scraps, cooking meals with rescued food, zero waste workshops, farm open days, kids demonstrations (Fridays for Future). Check out what is going on around you in your community. If not, get a group together to do a flash clean up or pick strawberries. It’s so much more fun being activists together!

8. Make instead of buy

Foto: Zero Waste Kate

Waste reduction does not sound like an exploding bucket of fun to most children, but I’m here to tell you it can be! At the last primary school workshop I did, we made black play dough with lavender essential oil (calming and fun) and cacao play dough. They forgot about their baeblade (?) flizzers or spinner latest contraption for a while and played with an open ended, non toxic material. Incredible! It’s easy to look up a quick recipe and lasts for a fair while if stored properly. So many readily bought products like air freshener, plastic wrap, body creams are full to the brim with toxins. Did you know that air fresheners contain formaldehyde? Yes, the animal specimen pickling substance. Choosing a few essential oils with your child to add to water and pour into a spray bottle is a great alternative. Warning though: once you start you won’t stop. Try beeswax wraps, wrapping paper, dish cloths, produce bags, recycled paper cards. It’s really endless as to what you can create as well as a bunch of fun for your family.

9. Lead by example

This is an important no brainer in my books. When you show your children that respecting the earth through everyday action is a part of your values, they are way more likely to follow your lead. If you collect every single freebie sample that will inevitably sit in a pile until thrown away, your child will probably think it’s a wonderful idea too. Just think of the reduction in clutter if you need motivation. Marie Kondo will be tickled pink.

10. Go shopping

Get to know your local farmers market! Even if it is sporadic and for purchasing an item or two, getting to know your local growers works wonders for all involved. When I grew up, the green grocer gave me a fresh bean to chomp on every time we went. He also saved the outside lettuce leaves for my Gran to give to the goats or put in a salad (the goats got priority). This is certainly very far from anything big supermarket chains can provide. Not only can your children get to know who produces their food. But it’s much easier to navigate the use of cotton bags or old jars and Tupperware for food items to go in. I really believe that getting back to a sneaky free bean from Con the grocerer is a big step in the right direction. Plus there are no mini wars at the check out thanks to strategically placed sweets.

Foto: Zero Waste Kate

One of my favourite quotes is by Anne Marie Bonneau aka Zero Waste Chef – ‘We don’t need a handful of people doing Zero Waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.’

Teaching our youngsters that unless we pull our second or third hand socks up and never use a scrap of plastic again or else we are all doomed is stepping towards a platform for giving up. However, talking openly and honestly about our climate crisis, taking realistic but fun action and of course reading are all great steps towards raising a child that won’t run every time they see a plastic toothbrush or bottle or bag.

Please let me know if you have any more great ideas. As a teacher I am very open to hear your suggestions!

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