Starting young in teaching environmental awareness

In line with heightened concern about global warming, the formal education sector, particularly among national plus and international schools, offers classes on environmental awareness as part of the curriculum.

Education experts believe that it’s a case of the earlier, the better to instill this environmental concern in students.

“The goal is clear. We want to raise awareness among students from an early age about the benefits of green living,” said Jenti Martono, the principal and academic manager at Hope For Kids bilingual preschool.

She added that the goal of raising environmental consciousness was not feasible unless young children understood the true meaning of green living. For that reason, Hope For Kids exposes its students to information and environment-related activities for them to apply in their lives.

The school has customized a program through a “caregiver” class, with students encouraged to express their environmental awareness with various craft activities.

Jenti explained that all the craft activities in the class were conducted with recycled materials, such as the making of vases and pencil cases with used mineral water bottles. Used packaging, including coffee and detergent sachets, are excellent for making bags or wallets.

No less important is the sense of pride the children gain from transforming secondhand clothes into mats or tablecloths. 

“We also teach children to make a collage from used newspapers and magazines. For instance, take a look at the tree decorations on this wall, the kids made them out of fallen trees,” Jenti said, adding that using the wood helped clean up the surroundings of the school and also enhanced children’s creativity in making three-dimensional artworks.

Hope For Kids also involves its students in an ongoing waste separation activity in making the most of its green education programs.

“Waste separation is one of the important activities that promotes a green education. Hence, we have provided proper waste disposal containers according to their classifications, which are organic, inorganic and chemical,” Jenti added.

On Bali, the Green School provides classes for children from 3 to 16 years about the environment. Situated near the Ayung River in Ubud, the school offers the children a real jungle experience.

The idea for its establishment first emerged in 2006 when John and Cynthia Hardy were determined to realize their dream of building a school-centered community with teachers living in the green village. The Hardys’ dream became a reality in September 2008.

“The idea is to stimulate this generation of children to think big on sustainability, so they can grow up learning about environmental issues from their early years,” said Chris Thompson, Green School’s managing director.

With its diverse enrollment of students from different backgrounds and nationalities, Green School has the potential to produce future green innovators who hopefully can tackle the global warming threat and start a new era of green living.

Thompson added that the world needed people at all leaves – from leaders to regular citizens – to respond to the threat of global warming.

“We don’t really expect our students to become one of these leaders or environmentalists. But through various sustainable environment related activities, we are nurturing the students to become environmentally responsible individuals who can give significant contributions in building a more sustainable world in which we all live in.”

Environmental awareness permeates all aspects of the school. Its classrooms are made of local, natural and renewable materials, mostly bamboo. Open spaces are planted with organic fruits, vegetable gardens and paddy.

On April 20, during the school’s Earth Day Assembly, Green School received the 2012 Greenest School on Earth Award from the US Green Building Council, the organization that offers the LEED accreditation for environmentally friendly buildings.

Green living has become a global way of life, and there have been many programs worldwide created to teach children better environmental awareness. Daejayon, a South Korean green schools initiative, recently signed an agreement with the Education and Culture Ministry. The cooperation, which was signed in Jakarta on May 23, is a green schools initiative aimed at helping Indonesian youngsters obtain better environmental education through the forming of a green schools network across Indonesian and South Korea.

Literally meaning “great nature” in Korean, Daejayon runs various campaigns on environmental awareness.

“There are around 3,000 elementary schools in Jakarta, and I hope that the initiative will play a great role in educating students to protect Indonesia’s environmental future,” said Daejayon’s education director for Jakarta Taufik Yudi Mulyanto.

He added that the initiative was a great means of providing information to children for them to apply the essence of green living not only at school but also in the home.

“It’s time for Indonesian children to start giving their contribution in preserving our environment.”

By Aulia R. Sungkar. Published in The Jakarta Post on June 5, 2012. 

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