Introducing primary school children to climate protection activities would come as a milestone in their eco-live endeavours towards a comprehensive green living or eco-cultural practices. For this to happen, teachers need to be knowledgeable about crosscutting and interdisciplinary issues concerning the discourse of climate change so that they will be able to provide the most needed guidance, facilitation and training to the pupils.
guest column: Peter Makwanya
This may always be done in line with demands of the national curriculum, if it has such kind of a component.
To be actively involved in the greening discourse to save our environment and save our planet, the schools need to establish and come up with nature centres, plots, gardens or orchards, whatever the term, so that they stock these sustainable centres with varieties of plants, tree and vegetable species, both indigenous or exotic, so that pupils grow up appreciating the beauty of nature, its indispensability in dressing and protecting the environment as well as sustaining human lives.
Currently, the majority of schools, do have in their classrooms, what are called nature or science corners, to facilitate the classrooms’ pedagogical processes without going beyond the confinements of the four corners of the classrooms.
Some of these science corners are quite genuine both in scope and content whilst others are for window dressing or glossing purposes, aimed at hoodwinking the school authorities. But we call upon schools to go an extra mile and indeed do much better than what is currently obtaining in the secluded corners of their classrooms.
Schools need to invest not in money but unwavering interests, goodwill commitment and vision, by establishing flourishing outdoor nature centres or plots where pupils will be actively involved and participate in nurturing the growth of varieties of plant, tree and vegetables table species as well as the landscapes to retain water and maintain appropriate moisture levels in order to keep the underground ecosystems environments thriving.
Nature centres or plots are necessary when pupils are having environmental sciences or agricultural lessons, so that they interact with real plant or tree species rather than being continuously lectured about them.
As the tree species would grow and mature, some will bear fruits, while others will possess medicinal properties necessary in nurturing the wellbeing of the people. Other tree species would be harvested for their poles or timber and this will make pupils growing up appreciating the value of nature, as well as developing a sense of scientific inquiry thereby boosting enthusiasm for research at tender ages.
Nature centres will provide sustainable opportunities for pupils to observe, handle, analyse and experiment with the plant and tree species. Outdoor nature centres are critical in that they appeal to sensory properties of learning like the sense of sight, touch, smell, and hearing, and to some extent tasting.
Comprehensive outdoor nature centres will empower people with a deeper understanding of plants, trees and forests, so that they will be in a position to make sustainable, informed and knowledgeable decisions or arguments about environmental issues.
Above all, they will be cultivating among themselves, the fundamental art of conservation which is quite vital in environmental protection. There are also scientific topics that always present understanding challenges and gaps to pupils when they are taught in isolation, hence, nature gardens will exist as sustainable centres for life-long teaching, learning and research.
Furthermore, outdoor nature centres are not very expensive to set up, as they can be constructed using locally available resources and materials. Nature centres will also bring the much needed relief in reducing distances normally covered when pupils engage in field trips during lessons.
A wide-range of plant and tree species in outdoor nature centres would improve soil fertility from falling leaves and decomposing grass, as well as preserving the moisture content in the ground. This will prove a milestone in establishing their own small scale carbon sinks, important in keeping large amounts of carbon under the ground.
In the long run, as the plant and tree species grow, they will become productive and bear fruits, bees will be attracted to them, to flowers and also moist conditions on the ground. They will come and settle easily if bee hives have been provided and they will make honey.
Schools will also generate money and benefit in many ways through selling fruits, honey and other tree products in order to improve their revenue base and desist from soliciting funds from well wishers. These nature gardens would wean off the schools from the dependence syndrome and enable them to buy books and furniture for their pupils rather than relying on donated books some of which have no local relevance.
Climate change on its own can be very difficult and challenging to teach and by establishing climate protection resource centres like nature plots and green centres, pupils will be indirectly nurtured into climate literacy discourses and environmental protection issues.
This would also consolidate the pupils’ understanding of issues of biodiversity and ecological balance of nature. The pupils’ actions in managing the school plots as well as guarding against their, destruction, will indeed help them in contributing to the reduction of potential climate impacts.
Children cannot be true ambassadors and guardians of nature, if they are sidelined from climate change programmes and decision making or if they are not actively involved in environmental growth and sustainability. They need to be part and parcel of the environmental discourse hence their voices need to be heard and bolstered in the process.
Nature plots are not only eco-friendly and environmentally centred but children centred as well. Pupils can also take videos of their nature plots and showcase them to their surrounding communities as well as competing with other schools in green competitions for schools.
What these schools do, will not end there or within the school surroundings, instead, communities would also learn and get inspired so as to come up with their own home based nature plots which would contribute significantly in the reduction of carbon footprints in the home.
All in all, this will go a long way in promoting a climate culture that supports sustainability and life-long choices.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org