We owe at least this much to future generations, from whom we have borrowed a fragile planet called Earth. ~ Maurice Strong
This year began with a very important and engaging inquiry in my classroom. Usually at this time of year, we might be learning about winter. However, for us the winter has been unseasonably warm, with very little snow. In December, some children even noticed a few ladybugs that should have been hibernating. Why were they awake? It struck me as a valuable opportunity to ask the children what has happened to winter, and see where this line of questioning might lead us. We began by reading the book The Last Polar Bear by Jean Craighead George, a beautiful story about a little boy named Tigluk, who notices how his world is being affected by the changing climate, as he searches for a stranded polar bear cub. The children in my class created their own illustrations based on their favourite part of the story. This was the start of what would become a rich exploration of global warming.
Sometimes I wondered if this might be too “heavy” a topic for the children. But we began by asking what they know about how the Earth works, how it gets energy from the sun, and how living things are influenced when the temperature changes. And as children always do, they demonstrated that they knew a lot. They made some gorgeous collages – using pictures from old magazines! We watched a short video entitled Climate Change (According to a Kid)which provided an explanation that other children could understand. We created an excellent list of all the things we can do, things we already do, to help solve the problem of global warming. The children readily offered solutions like: turning off the lights and faucets, walking or riding bikes to school, recycling, composting and picking up garbage. It was clear that these were familiar ideas to them, and I certainly wanted them to see that the Earth’s problems have solutions and that children can be part of bringing about positive changes. We enjoyed Raffi’s song Big Beautiful Planet, and its message of hope.
Lastly, we read Zebo and the Dirty Planet by Kim Fernandes, about a space alien who rescues animals from Earth because he is distressed by how they are being harmed by pollution. Two children who hid aboard his ship return to Earth with the message that the planet can be made clean again if humans truly want to make that happen. I really like this aspect of the book because it shows children caring about an important issue and as feeling empowered to take action. It was an invitation for the children in my class to transform their understanding of climate change into taking positive action themselves. They wrote a beautiful, illustrated letter to Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, with their hopes for a cleaner world and their promise to do what they can to protect the Earth. I witnessed their intelligence, their compassion for the planet and for living things, and their growing awarness of their power to bring about change. Right now, I am feeling very proud of the children in my class and lucky to know the world is in such capable hands.