Primary school children can be involved in easy ways to help the environment that they grow up in. They are vulnerable beings who is still at a teachable age. They depend on their teachers in school to pave and show them the path if their parents are not already doing their part in preserving the environment.
The Four Rs – Recycling, Reducing, Reusing and Replanting – has since replaced its predecessor, the 3Rs, in Singapore. Since the 1990s, Singaporean children have been taught to love their country via the Singapore Science Syllabus. They are aware of the need to preserve the environment they live and interact with, as land-scarce Singapore does not have room for waste management.
Recycling effort can begin with a recycling corner in each classroom whereby used writing paper and newspapers can be discarded. Schools can also embark on school-wide newspaper recycling programs whereby children bring in newspapers from their homes to recycle at the school level. Recycling companies can be called in to collect the newspapers at regular intervals. The money that comes in can fund programs such as the school’s hydroponics system or the Ecological Garden.
Children can be encouraged to reduce wastage. For example, they can ensure paper wastage by using both sides of a sheet of paper before discarding it. In the restrooms, toilet paper can be used as papier mache by naughty pupils to create unwanted decors on the ceiling. They must be educated on how much toilet paper they actually use and how to maximize the use of each sheet of paper. Such lessons cannot be left to chance.
Children need to be taught to reuse certain items in the environment. For example, instead of buying cartons of milk or bottles of soft drink, they can be encouraged to bring their own bottles of water. The bottles can be reused. Water can be recycled. Milk cartons and cans can be recycled. Bottles can be reused to contain other fluids or turned into decorated flower vases. Art lessons become a valuable time to teach reducing, reusing and recycling.
The fourth R is replanting or replacing, beginning with putting back the trees that have been chopped down. Many countries have national tree-planting days to remind citizens to take good care of the environment, especially the trees that also keep the air clean and provide shade.
Another area of acute wastage occurs in the canteen. Often, children need to be taught to be food-wise and not waste their food. Many children are moved by pictures of starving children, children eating off mountains of wasted food and dustbins. It is often said that if the world learns to share, none would go to bed hungry.
Children can be taught simple food nutrition and to choose a balanced meal. On the other hand, schools should look into the way meals are packaged to ensure that their children are eating right nutrition-wise and in the correct amounts. Children tend to over-eat. The canteen can maintain healthy standards of food and hygiene under a nation-wide agency.
Another area that children can help the environment is to be responsible pet owners. Often, children would want to own pets on the impulse. Once sick of them, their pets would be dumped in some alley. Children could learn to share in the responsibility of looking after class-owned pets instead of buying them. They can take the pets home for the weekend.
The environment is the children’s in future. They must be taught to take good care of it and to cherish it, not destroy it. They can be shown movies on how destroyed land can never be replaced, how pollution destroys the world and so on. If children are taught to look after the environment when they are young, it is likely that they will grow into responsible adults who will love and care for the environment that they live in.