Early this month, I had an amazing encounter with children. Children so concerned, lively and interested to learn how they can help to conserve the environment. As a child in primary school, we were fortunate enough to be exposed to the environment. We went to excursions to Giraffe Centre, Animal Orphanage and the National Museums of Kenya almost every term. This places became an activity to always look forward to when I was in lower primary. Once a year, long day trips to Nakuru or longer trips to the Tsavo National Parks and the coastal region were very common. Although this was reserved for upper primary. The Wildlife Club apart from Scouts and St. John was the most active club with the largest registered pupils. Apart from this, whether you were in the wildlife club or not, every student was required to have a Wildlife Clubs of Kenya (WCK) card.
Today, most children haven’t even been to the orphanage as frequent as I have. Not all schools require all students to have a WCK card. I can say that in part, this did play a part in what I have become to call a passion. Sometimes passion can be overrated but this one isn’t. Today, most urban children only know wildlife from what they see in books and television channels. Children in rural areas have a wider perspective as nature is more visible. The natural world still remains a ‘treasure’ for few selected children. Some may not realise that they see wildlife every day. If only they considered birds as wildlife and not only catapult targets.
A conversation we had with children during the Education and outreach programme to North Kinangop, in appreciation of the Youth Committee of Nature Kenya and Friends of Kinangop Plateau, indicated a concern among the children. As adults adulting we should think more carefully of our actions.
Our habits will grow in them
Children are the easiest to teach anything new. Their interests may be varied. But as long as you are clear (no big and vague words), fun and interactive, they will stand to remember what they have learned. In most cases, in an environmental perspective, when children are asked how they view the environment they become more aware. Today, children will note deforestation happening, rivers drying forcing some children to walk far distances to fetch water, change in climate, waste pollution and even disappearance of species. However, they may know and see the effects of climate change and pollution, but have no idea how they can help and sometimes they may think it is normal.
Littering is a habit among many children that has become ‘normal’ and has been routed from observing their parents/guardians who do the same. We are role models and we should always know this. This can go to the extent when we cut that one tree in the compound while they watch without explaining why you are doing it to even killing home critters such as spiders and the feared slithering reptile, the snake. How we tend to chase a housefly from our homes with so much effort gets plastered in the mind of a child and they begin to know such co-habitants are not to be found near a home. However, we cannot place any blame on any party.
Make environmental concepts easy to understand
Imagine being asked to explain climate change to a child in a manner in which they themselves can share with their friends. You may think this is easy. Especially when you have a scientific background. Do not fool yourself. Though it’s not as difficult it can provide a challenge when the questions stream in. When enlightening children on scientific terms, always make it as easy as possible. Back in high school, the Geography teacher explained the earth and the surrounding atmosphere as being an onion. This made that specific topic more interesting. With this, I always have an easier alternative to explain climate change to a group of children. Remember, less is always more. Children have already seen environmental damages. Focus less on this and focus more on solutions and daily habits.
When we spend time with children, we realise they know more than we do. They only need to be guided on the best options humans can employ to make the world we live in a better place. We may think they are only interested in the latest cartoon series, but they also want to do some birdwatching, see elephants, plant trees and recycle. These children will one day join the adulting world. When children are moulded from a young age then we have a hopeful future.