By Amara Sardelli, AmeriCorps member serving on the Trustey Family team with Grew Elementary School
As the weather gets warmer and it becomes more and more pleasant to be outside in Boston, we tend to focus our minds on nature a little more. Earth Day is coming up and although the Earth deserves far more than just a day of recognition, it’s important that as City Year AmeriCorps Members, we use this day to recognize ways in which we can improve the environment and teach our students about issues that our environment faces. The City Year extended day space is a great time to facilitate environmental lessons and service projects in.
Engaging students with the environment can be done in many different forms: from a hands on lesson to a service project. Environmental service projects are fun for students, because they provide the space for students to go outside and enjoy the springtime weather. Planting flowers and picking up trash are traditionally student favorites for environmental service projects. Another eco-friendly project that can be done with students is to provide students with reusable water bottles and tote bags that they can decorate. This project incorporates art with an environmental lesson, and it helps students to improve environmental conditions by having a water bottle or tote bag that they can reuse later on. A similar project where City Year AmeriCorps members can allow students to be creative while also learning about the environment is to have students create useful inventions out of pieces of recycling. This activity teaches students that old objects can and should be reused and repurposed to create new things.
In addition to service projects, environmental issues can also be taught and understood through hands on lessons. An engaging lesson for students could be having them take a nature walk and writing down things they notice about the environment, in particular, what things they notice are man made and what things they notice are natural features of the environment. Afterwards, City Year AmeriCorps members can debrief the activity with students by having students share if they found more man made structures or more natural structures. The students can then discuss what implications the prevalence of man made structures has on the environment. Any environmental lesson can be made more engaging by teaching the lesson outside, especially as the weather gets warmer.
In my team, I hope to lead a social justice lesson on environmentalism at some point. Because of societal inequalities, environmental damage will affect and has affected people in disadvantaged situations more greatly, and therefore I believe the topic to be a social justice issue. I hope to help students understand the concept of environmentalism by teaching them about the unequal ways that environmental damage will affect different types of people, and then leading a service project or two where students can give back to an environmental cause. By ending the lesson with a service project, we can teach students that they do have the power to alleviate environmental damage and change the world for the better.
It’s extremely important that young students learn about environmental issues, as they are becoming more and more prevalent and will continue to increase in the future if action is not taken. The youngest generation has a great potential to come up with solutions to environmental issues, and learning about these issues can start with City Year after school or before school lessons.