February 2 is not just Groundhog Day… it’s also the kickoff for National Green Week! This annual event is sponsored by the Green Education Foundation (GEF), an organization that aims to educate young generations about sustainability. The idea: schools can pick any convenient week, from now until the end of April, and use it as a chance to focus on learning about environmental topics by picking one of six themes, each of which has a set of lesson plans to go with it. The themes range from energy efficiency to waste reduction to green building strategies.
At my daughter’s elementary school, the focus on sustainability begins in our learning garden, a space that was developed with funds from the Captain Planet Foundation and other organizations, and now is a thriving space with flourishing garden beds, a greenhouse, and picnic tables that doubles as an outdoor classroom. With a mobile kitchen cart that came with one of our grants, I’ve been doing monthly cooking demonstrations, encouraging kids to fall in love with kale, chard, and other garden goodies. It took a forward-thinking principal, a resourceful teacher who’s a crack grant-writer, and a slew of committed parents to get the garden off the ground, and now it’s one of the neatest features of our school.
If you think your child and his or her peers could benefit from learning about sustainability, taking advantage of the National Green Week program is a great start. Whether at school, at home, or within a group, this is a great resource to start instilling green habits in the next generation. Here’s how.
- Approach your school. Share the information about National Green Week with your school’s principal or instructional coaches and be sure to tell them about the free, standards-based lesson plans that are developed for pre-K through high school levels. If it’s not something that can be officially incorporated into the classroom, perhaps the parent-teacher group, room parents, or parent volunteers can help, or a family evening event can be organized. The GEF website has a great list of ways to volunteer.
- Learn from the Green Classroom Pledge. The GEF has created a pledge to encourage schools to minimize waste of resources. While it’s designed for classrooms, it’s a powerful reminder that can be used even by families. Sign the pledge with your spouse and children, and start using both sides of every sheet of paper, using scraps for projects, unplugging electronics when not in use, and cleaning with environmentally friendly cleansers.
- Participate in National Green Week outside of school. If your child is involved in Girl Scouts, a youth group, 4-H, or any other organization, you could adapt the Green Week materials for your group, a good choice if it’s not something your local schools are able to incorporate into their schedules. The activities included on the website include games, projects, riddles, scavenger hunts and more, a perfect way to learn about sustainability while still having fun.
- Bring the Green Week Message home. Whether or not your child is participating in Green Week activities at school, the sustainable habits they are learning can be reinforced at home so that they’ll get an even clearer sense on how our household habits can affect the environment. Some of the tips on the website can be turned into fun activities at home, like using food coloring to test for leaks in a toilet, starting a compost pile, or planting a kitchen garden.