Welcome to our series of environmental & sustainability education posts for kids: Budding Adventures. This series is by our dear friend Amy Porter who has extensive experience in early childhood education and a deep love of caring for the environment. If you’d like any ideas for specific activities to do with kids, leave us a comment with your suggestions below!
Let’s talk about children as activists for change. June is Pride Month and every year, my wife and I make a big deal about it because we want to show our children that we are proud of the family that we have created. Typically, we do some fancy display in our front windows and decorate our outdoors with endless rainbows, and this year was no different. We made a solid effort to choose a craft that our daughter could get involved in – paper chains – but she had zero interest in helping us out and together, my wife and I created approximately 1500 individual chain links.
Sam and I really wanted our daughter to see that we are active members of our local community, so we decided to host a pandemic-friendly Pride event where we handed out popsicles, rainbow swag, and information sheets about queer history and social issues. Acknowledging that it is also Indigenous History Month, we decided that any donations gathered would be put toward the Indian Residential School Survivors Society. Our daughter loved this event, handing out flags to anyone who walked by, but when asked what her favourite part of the day was, she said it was eating popsicles.
To be clear, it is vitally important for children to see caregivers being activists for change. My wife and I were modelling community connections with meaningful conversations and showing our children that you can have fun while making a difference in other people’s lives. She absolutely wants to host this event again, but it is entirely motivated by the popsicles and not the activism. The thing is, this event, although clearly an act of activism, just didn’t resonate with her in the same way. In order for children to feel as though they are being activists for change, the idea needs to come from them – they need to be the ones who are leading the activity. It requires adults to be actively listening to see where opportunities for activism can happen.
Last spring, my daughter was very concerned about the bees not having enough food, so her form of activism was to help us buy flowers to ensure that our home was accessible to the pollinators. This year, after seeing a local retired couple picking up trash in our neighbourhood, decided that she wanted to do the same thing. As a three-year-old, she was able to recognize a problem and she then came up with an action to help solve the problem. Being able to identify a problem or injustice and creating an action to rectify the issue is paramount to enabling lasting change.
I was reading this article that explores children’s innate desires to make change in their local communities. Recognizing that children are citizens, both locally and globally, shifted my own perspective. They are members of our communities and they understand more than we often give them credit for. Children are capable of understanding social, environmental, and political injustices, and often, they connect to these local and global issues through stories. Stories have the power to spark conversation and it’s within these conversations that children can become agents for change.
I’ll be honest in admitting that I do not yet own enough stories that highlight differing perspectives so perhaps this post can create a community of sharing resources. I’ll share a few of our favourites:
The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge by Joanna Cole
The Wump World by Bill Peet
All Are Welcome Here by Alexandra Penfold
The Family Book by Todd Parr
I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer
What children’s books have sparked conversations of change in your home?