Earth matters start young

Teaching children about the environment equips them with the right ideas early in life

It is essential for schoolchildren to learn to care for the environment. Ryan Carter / The National
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From one rather obvious perspective, keeping the environment clean, healthy and sustainable is important to all of us. After all, this is the only home we have. But for schoolchildren, it is particularly important. It is they, after all, who will have to lead efforts to build a more sustainable future. And most of all, they will be the ones who live in that future.

Thus the fact that 65,000 pupils from 30 schools across the UAE have signed up to a schools environment protection programme is encouraging news. The programme educates pupils about small but essential steps they can take to make their schools and communities more sustainable, from installing energy-efficient lightbulbs to recycling.

For teachers, there’s an immediate benefit. Learning about these topics encourages the curiosity of schoolchildren, who can then be taught about related scientific concepts – how trees use oxygen, how light bulbs work, and how global warming takes place. Starting with even a small, practical example of planting more trees can help schoolchildren gain knowledge about much more complex matters.

But there is a further, longer-term benefit. By having a sense of knowledge and responsibility inculcated early, schoolchildren will carry that feeling with them into adulthood. It is empowering, as well. As one of the pupils interviewed in The National's story pointed out, saving the environment can seem like such an overwhelming task. By teaching pupils that even small actions can make a difference, it encourages them to get involved and see where else can they modify their behaviour.

It is knowledge that makes the difference. Look, for example, at the sawfish, a beautiful, unique-looking fish that was once common to the UAE’s coasts. It was only after the population began to decline that research into the fish took off, leading to it being placed on the endangered species list. Now it appears to be coming back. By knowing what the problem is, schoolchildren will be in a better position to figure out future answers.