Hope for the future lies within the children

Living in Balance
By Jenipher Appleton

Our children have a vested interest in their collective future. In my experience, they are not only interested in how their future will play out, but also care enough to try to make a difference in the outcome.
My students at East Williams Public School range in age from 10 to 12 years. They have embraced the environmental studies curriculum right from the start. Tell a child they are going to do a research project on an endangered animal and they jump in with both feet! They have enthusiastically adopted the theory that ‘if each one of us is prepared to make small changes toward conservation, the ultimate impact will be enormous’. Hence, each student has made the decision to reduce his/her personal ecological footprint.
Knowledge is power. One of our major projects this year has been to increase the awareness within the school and community that disposable water bottles are extremely harmful to the environment. Following several shared reading sessions on the facts about plastic water bottles, my students were shocked, even angered, about their negative impact. Did you know that:

  • it takes millions of barrels of oil annually to manufacture plastic bottles? (and the CO2 emissions to go with it?)
  • it takes 3L of water in the filling process for 1L of bottled water?
  • 15% of bottles get recycled; the rest end up in the landfill or ocean?
  • bottled water is rarely tested, whereas tap water is regularly and stringently tested?
  • it takes 82 years for a plastic bottle to biodegrade?

As a result of this newfound knowledge, the children learned how to write a meaningful business letter. They expressed their thoughts intelligently and their letters were then sent to Thames Valley District School Board Trustee Peggy Sattler, who has been lobbying against the bottles for some time. In spite of her efforts, the Thames Valley Board has compromised by encouraging the “reduction” of bottled water in our schools. My students think that is simply not good enough. And so, they chose to ban water bottles in our classroom and to spread the message to others within their reach. Most of them now own stainless steel re-usable water bottles. Bravo!
When the students were asked how they had recently reduced their personal ecological footprint, they responded decisively. Here is what some of them had to say:

  • We got in the van, stopped at ditches and picked up litter. (Michael Beattie)
  • Last weekend I used a china plate when everyone else was using styrofoam. (Matthew Grace)
  • I walk or bike to school instead of being driven. (Sara Doerr)
  • I asked my Mom not to buy plastic water bottles. Now I have a 500 mL re-usable bottle on my desk. (Daryn O’Neilll)
  • I unplug the Play Station and VCR. (Kyle Hemming)
  • I had a second hot chocolate and asked the waiter to fill up the old paper cup. (Taylor Davies)
  • I turned off computers, lights and TVs. (Kody Munn)
  • Last weekend we went with my cousins to Toronto. We carpooled. (Jordan Van Dyk)
  • When I have to feed the pigs at the other barn, I bike there. (Matt Bannister)
  • My mom told my brother and sister to get a plastic water bottle for gymnastics. I told them to get a reusable one. (Maddy Cocksworth)

So…listen to the children. The future of Planet Earth may well depend upon it.