Monday, April 12, 2010

The Monk's Story: Using Storytelling to Teach About Sustainable Living

One of the ways we can teach and learn about sustainable living is through the power of storytelling. There are many reasons why storytelling is such a useful tool. Stories present contemporary problems against the backdrop of another time and place. Establishing a little distance from the 'here and now' allows us to get a little perspective about our actual problem. Stories can also illicit powerful emotional responses and encourage us to act on our desires to change. Lastly, stories create an atmosphere of open communication as engaged listeners turn to one another to discuss and share their reactions.

Using The Monk's Story for Earth Scouts

The following story is set in a mountain forest village in Sri Lanka. The local monk helped this village apply principles of sustainable living in order to encourage a more peaceful, harmonious, and joyful life for the members of the community.

1. Listen to The Monk's Story.

2. After your scouts listen to the story ask them to consider the following question:

What are the six principles of sustainable living highlighted by the monk?

Harmony with nature
Doing things in a more natural way. Recycling our resources. Living and working with our environment in a sustainable way.

Quality of life
Living selfishly just for what we can get leads to misery and conflict with other people and the environment. Living selflessly to give, help and serve, leads to happiness, fulfillment and harmony with everyone and everything around us.

Self reliance
Not being dependent on other people, especially experts. Taking our own decisions, being responsible for ourselves. Participating, and doing what we feel to be the right thing.

Variety and diversity
Welcoming differences in ideas, opinions, people, etc. Respecting and valuing other people and their ideas, even though they may be different from us and our ideas. Not wishing to make things the same or uniform.

Small is beautiful
Wherever possible, organising things on a small scale gives control to ordinary people. Small groups can often get things done quickly. Large organisations are usually difficult to change, even when people's needs change.

Co-operation and peace
All around the world we see competition and aggression. People feel that they must win at something to feel good. But people can share their skills and resources. By working together co-operatively with each other and our environment, we can lead a more peaceful and satisfying life.

3. Let your scouts identify how the villagers put these principles into actions.

4. Finally, ask your scouts the following question:

Are any of these six principles relevant to sustainable living in your society?

Have your scouts make a list of one thing you, your school or community could do to follow any of the six principles in 'The Monk's Story'.

Source: Adapted from Beddes, R. and Johnson C. (eds) (1988) Only One Earth: A Multimedia Education Pack, WWF-UK, Godalming, Surrey.

Source: Adapted from UNESCO (2002)
Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future

Source: Adapted from UNESCO storytelling module by John Fien, Bernard Cox and Margaret Calder using ideas, activities and material suggested by Annette Gough, Premila Kumar and John Fien in Learning for a Sustainable Environment (UNESCO - ACEID).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Power of the Sun: Sustainable Energy Education from the Pembina Institute

One of the themes that Earth Day reminds us about is the need for sustainable energy development throughout the world. The Pembina Institute, a Canadian non-profit think tank, has made its mission the advancement of "sustainable energy solutions through innovative research, education, consultation, and advocacy." Most importantly the Pembina Institute strives for "a world in which our immediate and future needs are met in a manner that protects the earth's living systems; ensures clean air, land and water; prevents dangerous climate change, and provides for a safe and just global community."

The Pembina Institute's education programs are focused on teaching people around the world about the principles of sustainability. One activity I think our Earth Scouts will enjoy is learning about the power of solar energy. When you think about it, the sun has been emitting massive amounts of energy for billions of years. It just makes sense for us to harness this energy for everyday use.

The links that follow include an activity for our scouts to build their own solar oven. There is research information, instructions to construct the oven, and they've even included a recipe sheet!


Background Information on Solar Heat
Solar Energy Q&A for Younger Kids
Solar Energy Q&A for older kids
Principles of a Solar Box Cooker Design
Solar Oven Construction Plans
Solar Oven Recipes

If you decide to take on the solar oven project be sure to tell us all about it!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The History of Earth Day

On April 22nd people across the globe will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, felt that US citizens needed an outlet to express their frustration with the environmental destruction going on around them. That first Earth Day event in 1970 inspired a grassroots coalition of 20 million people and thousands of local schools and communities to organize and demonstrate.

Who participated in the original Earth Day? This diverse coalition included middle class women, churches and religious groups, labor unions, scientists, students, and conservation groups. What brought these groups together to demand respect for nature? Senator Nelson argued that “"Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures."

Senator Nelson consistently argued that Earth Day and the demand for environmental responsibility should remain in the hands of the people. Our Earth Scouts have to remind global leaders of the importance of respect for nature and, by proxy, respect for humanity and for life. What can our Earth Scouts do to participate in Earth Day this year? Here’s a list of ideas thought up by kids:

Teaching Earth Friendliness
Fundraising for Wildlife
The Enchanted Forest
Trees in Honor of Earth
Invite Community Speakers
Spreading the Word
Each One Teach One
Pledge to Mother Earth
Outdoor Classroom
Creating Wildlife Habitats
Jump Start Recycling

What will my Charlotte Earth Scouts group be doing? We’re going to set up a table at a local Earth Day festival to share the Earth Scouts program with the community. Our group will be wearing our Earth Scouts T-Shirts and my daughter will be sharing her Earth Day project. We’ll also be participating in the Global Youth Service Day by cleaning up trash from a local creek.

Whatever you choose to do have fun! Be sure to share your experiences on our network! I relied on the following two websites for the information in this post. Please be sure to check them out for more information!

Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day website
This site is an amazing resource for our children. It has lots of resources, documents, and information about the history of Earth Day.

All About Earth Day website
This is a great site directed towards teaching children about the history of Earth Day.