What comes to mind when you hear Earth Day and education? Do you see endangered species posters? Or perhaps a paper mache rainforest?

Such projects can be fun. But focusing on exotic animals and ‘wild’ places sends the message that the environment is a place both far away and without people. That keeps kids from understanding a vital fact: humans are part of the environment.

Understanding this starts with learning about one’s own place. Can the student who draws a rainforest toucan identify a bird that’s native to the local ecosystem? Can the student who made a cardboard tree name an indigenous tribe that inhabits the forest? I wonder. 

Is it time to clear-cut the paper mache rainforest? Not necessarily. But let’s raise the bar. Environmental literacy is an essential 21st century skill that will determine life in the 22nd century. Our kids deserve the best we can give them.


Looking for ideas? Contact me for inspiring examples or helpful resources.

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