Saving Our Seas for Future Generations: Engaging Young People in Environmental Issues
Many issues face our planet, ones that sadly look set to affect future generations even more than us. If we want to preserve the planet, oceans and natural world for these young people, what better way could there be to do so than by engaging young people themselves in sustainability? By doing this, we are creating environmental ambassadors of the future – people who are engaged in and concerned about conservation issues.
The benefits don’t just stop there, either. Giving young people a better appreciation of nature means lots of opportunities to get out and about, helping families to have healthier, happier lifestyles. One study looked into the benefits of helping young people to engage with their natural environment, and found that there were significant improvements in children’s physical activity levels when they were allowed to play and explore in a natural environment. There were also further-reaching benefits, including recovery from stress and stimulating development in children.
If you want to help your young people engage with their natural environment and become champions for our planet, we have some ideas for you. Most are simple ways to have more fun as a family, but these ideas could have a far-reaching impact on your child’s outlook:
- Get out into nature as often as possible. It’s as simple as that! Spending time with nature should be a relaxing, refreshing activity that also teaches children to feel respect for and an affinity with their natural environments. Studies now link mental health and nature directly, suggesting that nature can have many benefits. Sometimes, this can be linked to the inclusion of more physical activity. Other times, it could be to do with the therapeutic effects of enjoying the natural environment and seeing trees, plants and animals thriving. Whatever it might be, it’s becoming clear from scientific studies that what we’ve believed for a long time really is true – the great outdoors has great health benefits to offer.
- Get their schools involved. Many schools already include environmental issues in their curriculums wherever they can. If you have any specific ideas though, it’s always worth mentioning these to schools to see if more can be done. Why not talk to schools about their recycling initiatives and getting children involved – or better yet, get your children to talk to their school! You could also mention the work of GreenSeas Trust and see if schools would be interested in working with us. We have put on talks and workshops for many
schools, and it’s always interested to see children’s perspectives and help educate them about our work. Our ethos at GreenSeas Trust is all about behavioural change, so if we can start with young people and inspire change from early on in life, even better. If you would like any more information about how GreenSeas Trust can work with schools, colleges and other educational establishment, please just get in touch!
- Make environmental awareness part of your family life. There are many opportunities to get kids involved in nature and conservation through the activities you choose to take part in as a family. Why not visit conservation sites and get your child their own nature journal? Or for a day out with a difference, take part in a beach clean. Or better yet why not just help on a personal level and pick up the rubbish around you.
- Watch documentaries. Many parents want their children to spend less time on technology – but what if technology could actually be beneficial? Rather than banning the iPad or TV, try watching some documentaries together. There are programmes for all age groups that can give children a useful insight into the natural world, and help them gain a lifelong respect for it. The Blue Planet documentaries are a great starting point for any budding marine scientists, giving a good perspective on the issues facing marine life as well as general insight into the underwater world. For younger children, you could try the BBC’s Spy in the Huddle, which uses spycams to get up close and personal with penguins, or Andy’s Wild Adventures, a series of short documentaries for children.
- Allow your children to think of solutions themselves. You can start by setting a good example, recycling at home, separating out plastics etc. and asking your children to help. Try giving them some background, helping them to understand and take ownership of environmental issues and feel empowered to do something to help the planet. CBeebies suggests asking your children open-ended questions, perhaps about the colour of recycling bins, or where their rubbish is taken to by bin lorries. This allows them to think for themselves and start making sustainability a part of their everyday lives. They also have some great ideas for games and activities for younger children, helping to make recycling a habit for life. You never know what your children might come up with. One of our GreenSeas Trust volunteers started collecting crisp packets from neighbours and found a recycling company that would collect them – in one month, she collected more than 500! You children can come up with similarly good ideas if encouraged.
Got any more ideas about how to help children become our ocean and environmental champions of the future? Let us know! We’d love to hear about what you’ve been up to with your little ones.