Eco Endeavours: Introducing Sustainability in Elementary School

This blog piece is part of the Sustainability Peer Program. In the program, students were asked to create a sustainability initiative as a way to foster sustainability leadership on and off campus. Each student or group was asked to complete a reflection about their initiative. Here is Angela write-up on their experience creating their program, Eco Endeavours.

People often underestimate the intelligence of children. So why is it that a students learning and identity can also shift dramatically from ages 7-12 compared to 37-42? Why can you still remember a moment in elementary school where a teacher really impacted your life or changed your perspective? Or, you may recall that you used to not hesitate to put up your hand or call yourself a great artist in elementary school. The point is, people are very open-minded when they are younger. So, why not expose children to sustainability topics when they are young so they carry these ideas on into their high school, college, or adult lives?

Eco Endeavours is inspired by Angela and Zahra's experience in the SFU Sustainability Peer Educator Program and their experience working with children. The Peer Program opened their eyes to the diversity of sustainability, such as decolonization, social justice, food waste, etc. They want Eco Endeavours to consist of small cohorts so all students feel comfortable sharing their ideas like what Zahra and Angela experienced in the Peer Program. They also plan for Eco Endeavours to consist of documentaries, guest speakers, field trips, scrapbook reflections, and elementary students planning their own sustainability initiatives.

The experience so far has been great, but longer than expected. Their plans to start a cohort in the spring has been set back by trying to reach out to an elementary school principal directly and waiting to see if they would win funding from the Student Community Engagement competition. Luckily grant money from the Community Engagement competition, the Sustainability Office, and Embark has been flexible about a program not running until September. Also, they have elementary schools confirmed for fall thanks to a judge at the Engagement Competition connecting them to community coordinators.

The challenges ahead are deciding the best topics to introduce to students. Zahra and Angela want to share with students pressing environmental issues, but they also want to respect that the child's parents may have different perspectives on certain environmental conflicts, and in no way want to “brainwash” the students. Essentially, Zahra and Angela want to inspire students to do their own research and decide for themselves the best way to support causes they care about throughout their lives, and they believe promoting critical thinking and sustainable practices at a young age is the best way to accomplish this.

Eco Endeavours is recruiting volunteers! Email: ecoendeavours@gmail.com

More info about the Student Engagement Competition: https://www.sfu.ca/engagement-competition/news-and-stories/congratulations-to-our-finalists-and-winners.html


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