Climate change has become a very real threat to our planet and to the survival of the human race. Developing a secure understanding of the challenges it poses, as well as the capacity to assess scientific information and make informed choices based on this evidence, is an important skill for everyone, including children. These skills are increasingly being referred to as “climate literacy”.
This week, we explore what climate literacy is, its importance and some simple and actionable ways in which we, as parents, can help to inspire our children to become more climate literate.
What Is Climate Literacy?
Climate literacy, also sometimes referred to as Climate Science Literacy is “is an understanding of your influence on climate and climate’s influence on you and society” (climate.gov).
People who are climate literate have a clear understanding of the Earth’s climate system and are able to “assess scientifically credible information about climate” (clate.gov). Moreover, they can also talk about climate change in meaningful ways and are able to make informed decisions about their actions and the impact that these may have upon the Earth’s climate.
There is growing pressure to ensure that Climate Literacy becomes a compulsory part of every child’s education. One such example of this is the Climate and Environmental Literacy campaign launched by EARTHDAY.ORG in the Summer of 2020.
In years to come, climate change is likely to pose environmental and economic challenges to us all. As such, not only will this be a topic which continues to be a significant part of public discourse, but it will have many implications for the lifestyles, jobs and opportunities of our children.
Supporting Your Child to Become Climate Literate
For many parents, climate change can sometimes feel like too complex an issue to address with children. Luckily, there are simple, fun and engaging actions which we can all take to help our children, however young or old, become more climate literate.
· Spend time outdoors with your children – you may be going for a walk, having a picnic, going for a run, building a fort, going to the park or just playing in your garden. Whatever the activity, encourage your child(ren) to spend time outdoors. This will help them to appreciate the benefits of nature, as well as promote positive physical and mental wellbeing.
· Model how to behave and care for the outdoors – when you spend time in nature, make sure that you are a good role model. Always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and encourage your child(ren) to be respectful and careful when they’re outside. Remind them to dispose of their litter and to be mindful of the environment. Teach them to think about and be aware of the impact of their presence on natural habitats and to be mindful of disturbing wildlife.
· Listen to nature – take a moment to pause during a walk or run and simply listen to the sounds of Nature. You could even make a sound recording, try to identify different bird calls or try to count how many different types of sounds you can hear.
· Go on a hunt – this can be a really enjoyable family activity! For younger children, you can simply go on a hunt for different colours or animals. With older children, you might try to spot different types of birds or insects, or even try to find and identify different leaves, trees or plants.
· Play in the soil – children love playing in the dirt! Spend some time exploring the soil and use it as an opportunity to teach your child(ren) about the importance of soil and all the amazing organisms that can be found in it. You could even set up a “science site”, using four lolly sticks and some string. Explore the area and see what you can find! For older children, you could even encourage them to write their own fact-sheet or poster or make a short video!
· Do some planting – whether you have a garden or an allotment, or just a small space on a windowsill, planting is a great activity for children of all ages. Use the opportunity to talk to your child(ren) about what plants need to grow and how you - and they – will be responsible for caring for the growing plant. You could even have a go at growing some herbs and vegetables. You could use these in your home cooking for even more learning about sustainable living practices.
· Spend time observing – whether you pause in a woodland or beach, or simply as part of your walk to school, encourage your child(ren) to observe the natural world around them. Point out any animals that you see and even try to learn the names of the different plants you go past on your daily walk.
· Watch the seasons change – pick a local outdoor location that you can easily visit all year round. Watch how it changes and is affected by the different seasons. For example, you could take a photo of the same tree during each of the seasons. Observe not only the changes in the colour of leaves, but also explore how the temperature impacts upon the soil and the animals that you can see and hear. You could keep a diary or make a scrapbook with your child(ren).
· Make artwork using natural materials – children love to collect sticks and leaves, so why not use it to make artwork? From leaf printing, to making stick puppets, leaf monsters and creating a collage, the options are endless. You could also collect different natural materials and use them to make your own terrarium.
· Talk to your child(ren) about climate change and the environment – even very young children will be able to understand big issues if you explain things to them clearly and simply. Tell them why you recycle and encourage them to help you. Explain why you reuse bags or why you are walking instead of driving. Make your choices and reasoning explicit and this will help them understand the importance of leading a sustainable lifestyle.
As we continue to reflect on Earth Day and the importance of making sustainable lifestyle choices, we invite you this week to begin to extend this to your own children and families.
Choose one of the activities above to try with your family and begin to make climate literacy a normal part of daily life and conversation.
You may find that your children already have some knowledge or specific interest in climate change. Talk to them and support them in following their curiosity, in discovering more about it and sharing the experience with you.
By educating the next generations in climate literacy, we can help to raise conscientious and reflective citizens. Moreover, we can help to better prepare and equip them to face the challenges of the future, whilst helping them to create a better world for all of us to live in.