The deer in my neighborhood are getting bold. Over the past month, thanks to our state’s Shelter in Place order, the wildlife in my area has enjoyed an unprecedented level of freedom. Deer have emerged to graze on people’s front lawns. Local rabbits are invading gardens to stuff themselves with unattended greens. Even the birds seem more active, with blue jays, mourning doves, and robins suddenly popping up in every tree.
This behavior isn’t limited to the United States either. Across the world people are witnessing the slow resurgence of nature. From endangered sea turtles nesting on empty Brazilian beaches, to a heard of goats wandering the streets of Wales, we’ve suddenly realized the true impact our presence has on the environment. The question is, what are we going to do about it when this all over? Will we return to our wasteful habits, our work to build a more sustainable world?
Learning from Nature
As teachers, we should take this opportunity to share a lesson of sustainability with our students. Evidence suggests that our ill-treatment of wildlife may have considerably amplified the spread of COVID-19. Furthermore, our planet has never been more fragile, with countless species disappearing at an alarming rate. Before we all rush back outside, why not use these moments of quarantine to learn what we must preserve to ensure that both people and nature thrive? So, here are just a few ways you can encourage your students to protect our sustainable world (courtesy of the Blue Apple project, State of Sustainability):
Explore Sustainability Through Media
Just because you’re separated by quarantine doesn’t mean you can’t still read to your students. Get a copy of The Lorax by Dr. Seuss and perform a read-aloud for them over Zoom or another video app. Discuss what the book has to teach readers about environmental awareness and have your students create a Venn diagram to show how the Once-ler’s actions affected his world. If your students are too old for storybooks, swap The Lorax out for an episode of Netflix’s Our Planet, currently free to watch on YouTube. Have them reflect on what changes our happening in our world, and the steps they can take to correct the damage.
Research Your State
Every state is uniquely great. From coastlines to mountains to rolling prairies, each one has something unique to offer the rest of the country. Just how much do your students know about their home state? Task them with discovering interesting facts about their state; does it have any unique plants or animals? Are any of them endangered? What kind of habitats does it provide, and how can you ensure these are protected? Sometimes the best place to start your conservation efforts is in your own backyard!
Set the Right Goals
The United Nations currently has 17 goals for achieving a better and more sustainable future. Introduce your students to six of these:
- Clean Water & Sanitation
- Sustainable Cities & Communities
- Responsible Consumption & Production
- Climate Action
- Life below Water
- Life on Land
Once they have familiarized themselves with each goal, have them discuss which one is the most crucial for the sustainability of their state. Students could even take a stand by researching their preferred goal and debating its merit with others over video.
Develop Some Healthy Habits
By now, most students have come to understand the need for proper hygiene and handwashing. But what other healthy habits could they adopt, specifically with regards to sustainability? Have your class brainstorm ways they can contribute to the conservation of their state. What about planting flowers that attract bees? Maybe start a compost pile in their backyard or write their local lawmakers to pass more environmentally friendly legislation? Once they have an idea, have them keep a journal to monitor the progress of their new, environmentally friendly habit.
As we wait for the quarantine surrounding COVID-19 to end, we should contemplate the type of world we hope to reenter. Nature still has many valuable lessons to teach us, but only we can ensure that the plants and animals of today will still be around tomorrow. Our planet will only remain sustainable if we work to preserve it in a way which benefits us all. So, the next time your students see a heard of deer grazing on their lawn, remind them to wonder, “What can I do to protect our sustainable world?”