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Conservation in the classroom

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© Hemera/Thinkstock © Hemera/Thinkstock


By Elizabeth Barker
From Green Goes Simple

Raising environmentally savvy kids is one of the most powerful ways to help them enjoy a protected planet. To foster your children's eco-education, encourage their schools to go green.

As part of National Green Week (an annual program developed by the Green Education Foundation), schools can devote any week from now until Earth Day (April 22) to projects that help create a more sustainable classroom and community. "One of National Green Week's goals is for schools to start making environment-focused changes they can stick with for the rest of the year and beyond, so that the program can truly have a lasting impact," says Green Education Foundation president Victoria Waters.

To spark each child's green spirit, says Waters, it's crucial to let students take charge in choosing which environmental issues they'll hone in on during National Green Week. Parents and teachers can check out the Green Education Foundation  for a wealth of resources and tips on making the program fun and meaningful for kids. You and your kids can get inspired with Waters' suggestions for fun National Green Week projects:

Waste-free Snacks

In 2010, National Green Week participants eliminated 300,000 pounds of trash by packaging their snacks more sustainably. With a goal of slashing snack waste by 500,000 pounds during National Green Week 2011, the Waste-free Snacks project prompts kids to ditch plastic baggies and juice boxes and start using reusable containers and bottles. With all the fun, kid-friendly container options out there, this challenge is sure to be a hit with your tikes!

The Green Thumb Challenge

By growing their own garden, kids can connect with the earth and foster a lifelong fondness for fresh fruits and veggies. For schools seeking to transform their grounds into a bountiful green space, the Green Education Foundation suggests using National Green Week as a garden-planning period.

Keep it easy by focusing on cultivating easy-to-grow goodies like watermelons and radishes. This project highlights sustainable gardening practices that help nurture the planet. "Lots of schools taking part in the Green Thumb Challenge have gotten into working with earthworms for use in composting, which helps cut the amount of waste that ends up in landfills," says Waters.

The Green Classroom Pledge

Designed to give schools an eco-makeover, the Green Classroom Pledge includes 10 simple steps for fighting pollution and reducing the use of natural resources. Along with paper-preserving strategies and energy-saving initiatives, the pledge involves cleaning up classroom air by switching to nontoxic supplies and adopting plants that help purify the indoor environment.

To shore up your school's National Green Week efforts, the Green Education Foundation offers a sustainability-centric curriculum for each grade -- from kindergarten-friendly lessons on making Solar Sweet Tea to a middle-school-level guide to growing hydroponic flowers. But no matter which activities schools select, National Green Week should ultimately serve to inspire students.

"When kids hear about the doom-and-gloom of what's going on with the environment, it's easy for them to feel helpless," says Waters. "But once they take part in hands-on projects where they actually see a positive outcome, it really empowers them and gives them the sense that they can make a difference."

Elizabeth Barker is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and executive editor of fashion blog NoGoodForMe.com. Her work has appeared in Body + Soul, Natural Health, Vegetarian Times, Variety and Kiwi.

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