Children teaching adults to save the planet
Kids are teaching adults a thing or two about environmental conservation, report Tim Roxburgh and Sam Buckingham-Jones.
At Kormilda College in the Northern Territory, getting children excited about studying the environment can be difficult. There’s sweltering heat, and little incentive for children to invest in a conservation program.
But defying the odds, a learning program called Kids Teaching Kids is making headway.
“A lot of the students at the school, especially the Indigenous students, are really quite shy,” said Kormilda College teacher Katie Gregory,” so getting them to speak out can be quite hard.
“This program has really encouraged them to speak out, find out information for themselves, and teach other kids.”
At Kormilda, a group of Year seven and 8 students used the Territory Wildlife Park to study, then taught what they learned to year 6 students.
“They researched, found out the information, then they relayed that information to the year 6s – and they just loved it. It really made them shine. [They looked at] fish in the rivers, the plants, the insects, what’s in the water,” said Ms Gregory.
3,500 km away, at Coolaroo South Primary School in Victoria, young kids have also been studying the environment. Coolaroo student Jermaine Tui was encouraged to use his indigenous heritage in his presentation. “It was like trying to get people to think secondly about wasting water,” he said. “We were showing that the land would be barren and flat without water to provide plants and animals with something to eat.”
Coolaroo South Primary School Teacher Tim Murtagh says the benefits of kids teaching other kids have been huge. “We had two students in particular who have stepped up like you wouldn’t believe. What they have done – their confidence has just soared, it’s been fantastic.”
Fresh from holding the Melbourne Water International Kids Teaching Kids Conference in mid October, Arron Wood doesn’t underestimate the power of children. “These kids… they might be young people, but they really are change agents. They inspire adults who might’ve become a bit, you know, despairing about what the future holds.”
As the 2001 Young Australian of the Year, 2007 Prime Minister’s Environmentalist of the Year Award recipient and Winner in the United Nations World Environment Day Awards, Wood is no stranger to environmentalism. He also founded and directs Kids Teaching Kids, and has seen the impact children can have on communities.
“We’ve had kids in Inverell in Northern New South Wales present their workshop on platypus habitat, and then the local council has come on board to help them out with reproducing platypus habitat in the Macintyre River. We’ve had kids in Western Australia campaigning for better management of the native swan population over there and we’ve then had environmental organisations support them. They really can mobolise on-ground action as a result of using their voices.”
The program has been running for more than a decade, and there are no plans to stop.
“I think the great thing about young people is that we’ve got kids from right up the top of the Murray Darling Basin in Queensland, and we’ve got kids all the way down at the Murray mouth in Goolwa,” said Wood.
“Instead of saying ‘well, hang on a second, I’m from South Australia, you’re from Queensland, you’re taking too much water – lets fight over this’, they’re saying ‘we need to share this’. It might sound warm and fuzzy, but when you look at the message, there’s something that us adults can really learn from.”