Project Learning Tree Workshop

I talk a big game when it comes to being environmentally conscious, but to be honest, there’s a lot of things I can do better. I could drive less (some of the places I drive to are an easy bus ride…or even walk…away), I could be more careful about buying locally grown produce, I could buy less STUFF (read: SHOES AND CLOTHES). But then I tell myself, ” It’s cool. I recycle. I compost. I take my reusable bag to the grocery store. At least I recognize climate change is a reality.”

This comes to a head when I think about how to incorporate environmental education into a classroom’s science curriculum, and nothing was more powerful today during our Project Learning Tree workshop than the following idea: The basis, or “bottom of the pyramid” of environmental education should be in nurturing children’s emotional connections to the environment. This is what leads to the action part of environmental stewardship, not haranguing them about what they and their families are doing wrong and hoping the guilt will change behavior.

What makes the above statement so powerful is the universal truth of it; when have people ever changed their behavior simply out of guilt? Simply because someone told them it was the right thing to do? I wonder what future generations’ treatment of our natural world and the life that surrounds us could look like, if we started with the bottom of the pyramid, nurtured and stoked children’s curiosity about the environment, if we showed them how it can be appreciated, if we exposed them to the beauty of that part of our world.

I’m excited that the rest of the workshop was then centered around explicit objectives and lessons that we could use with our future students, and I already know I’ll be using the Activities book this year in my work with urban youth in an after-school program.