by Alyssa Fama
Growing up, I always admired the beauty of nature and the world around me; blossoming flowers in the spring, the buzzing of insects during the summer, changing leaf colors in the fall and the silent snowfall in the winter. My childhood eyes were never opened to what we were doing to our planet, and it wasn’t until recently I began to understand.
We go through years of schooling. From pre-K all the way through high school and college, children, young adults, teens, and even adults are taught different subjects; some inspiring and interesting, others boring. But, something which is important to learn and isn’t taught is the importance of cli- mate, food, and sustainability matters. This is important to teach and learn because the world around us is constantly changing, and most of the damage is being done by our own hands. Children are more open to learning what to do and, more importantly, what not to do when it comes to environmental strategies and problems. It’s more important to teach what not to do so they don’t add to the problem while trying to learn how to fix it.
Many environmentalists are trying to spread the word. I thought it significant that Leonardo DeCaprio used his Oscar acceptance speech to address the climate crisis. But I think change is more likely to come when schools teach children about what is hurting our planet and what they can do to help. One way to begin doing this is to add topics in various school levels involved in all subjects, and to give their opinions. For example, an art class can ask students to make art that raises questions or illustrates global warming impacts or processes; create posters to raise awareness or instigate action. In elementary school, the children could be encouraged to observe & describe the world around them, apply critical thinking to what they see and try to understand why things are the way they are, consider pos- sible alternatives, and present their thoughts to peers — all of which will increase their understanding of how science works, develop critical thinking skills, and develop their confidence. This suggests that making young kids aware of the world around them and challenging them to think this way will make them aware in the future, and I couldn’t agree more.
If this is such an issue globally, why haven’t steps been made to help fix the problem? The answer lies within the schools that teach children, that will teach our children’s children, and that taught us. Knowing what damages this planet and all that it offers, not sugarcoating the facts and making not just children but everyone fear for the fate of our planet is what will make a difference.
I took one environmental class when I was a junior in high school. Almost five years later, I hardly remember what I learned. Although five years doesn’t seem like a long time, imagine what steps I could have taken in that time had I been more aware of certain issues. In order for there to be a movement, lessons need to make an impact on the minds of the people who will help our planet’s future. If schools don’t begin teaching students about this problem, their graduates won’t have a real understanding of global warming or other sustainability issues — and will then tend to be part of the problem instead of be- ing part of the solution.
Teaching every grade in every school what our planet used to look like, what our planet looks like now, and what we’ve done in the past to cause it will only help us reach the light at the end of the tunnel. We will never have the perfect solution or the right answer to numerous questions, but we can make the importance of climate change, food, and sustainability matters known.
by Alyssa Fama
Alyssa is a senior at Kutztown University.
(Essays express the ideas of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alliance.)