How do we get students to worry more about conserving and less about consuming? In technology circles, we often hear experts and teachers talking about curating content rather than consuming it, and we know that’s important. After all, consuming often means passively sitting by and watching information come at us. We need students to take a more active role in their learning.
But I often wonder who will be the next student who wants to contribute to saving the planet. We need to inspire kids to curate and learn how to conserve our resources, because we seem to have an issue with collecting more things we do not need, and wasting a lot of what we do need.
Nude Food really got met thinking about it.
Recently, when I spent time in Australia I noticed a sign for Nude Food in every school I worked in. According to this Nutrition Australia website, “Nude Food Day is a nationwide initiative developed to encourage kids and parents to eat well and live well, and eliminate all unnecessary packaging and wrapping that goes into schools.”
How does it work? It’s totally up to the discretion of the school. The website offers the following suggestions,
Some schools run waste audits for each classroom and award prizes for the least amount of litter generated, whilst some schools run healthy cooking demonstrations or healthiest lunch competitions. There are no hard and fast rules; it is all just about teaching kids how their actions can directly impact their health and the environment."
As a principal, we had some engaging health and PE teachers who led small efforts around this idea. But Nude Food enters into a realm that some school leaders and teachers may not be thinking about. It’s about encouraging students to bring their school lunches in Tupperware or some sort of recycled plastic container to cut down on the waste that we have in schools. Let’s face it, as a school principal I saw my custodians carry out many garbage bags per day, and it would be helpful if we could cut that number of garbage in half each day.
Perhaps Nude School Mondays or Fridays? After all, we all have dozens of plastic containers stacked in our cabinets and pantries at home.
The reason why this has been an important effort in Australia is that many schools do not offer a cafeteria lunch like we do in the US so they found that there was a lot of waste based on the sheer number of students who bring their lunch to school.
With Nude Food in mind still on my mind, I walked around the Healesville Sanctuary with my friend Australian friend Annie, who is very proactive in conservation. I couldn’t help but notice Wipe for Wildlife. Nude Food and Wipe for Wildlife? How could you not have those names stick with you! It was a promotion from the sanctuary.
According to the wildlife experts at the sanctuary, “6 Million trees are flushed down Australian toilets each year.” The pamphlet published by the Healesville Sanctuary says, “Regular toilet paper is made from virgin fibers, whereas recycled toilet paper is from 100% post consumer waste (textbooks and office paper). Recycled toilet paper keeps trees in the ground to absorb emissions created from other daily human activities.”
The site goes on toe say,
All trees have an ecological value, some provide habitat for wildlife, they protect soil from erosion and they keep our air clean. Our environment is healthier with trees in the ground rather than down the toilet. Recycled toilet paper is as silky as regular toilet paper, make the switch today and see if your family notices the difference."
There were so many children at the sanctuary learning about conservation and getting to see animals indigenous to Australia, as well as some of those animals that were in the animal hospital for one reason or another. Yes, the name Wipe for Wildlife was funny to some of them, and it was clearly clever marketing, but it teaches students about conservation at a young age, and perhaps they will do a little more at home to conserve rather than consume.
In the End
We need to teach students, and some of their parents, how to conserve. Quite frankly, we can all learn to conserve a little more. The issue is that we often look for programs that cost a great deal of money and we hang huge posters around the school, which is just as wasteful as anything we were doing leading up to the new program.
Using an idea like Nude Food Mondays or Fridays costs nothing because it gets parents and students to use containers they already have. It creates an opportunity to make a collaborative effort among all stakeholders, and it teaches students something that they can continue every day at home and in school.
As for Wipe for Wildlife...well, that’s about replacing one thing for another. I’m sure that many schools are focusing on conservation. Feel free to add your awesome ideas below.
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Creative Commons photo courtesy of Wokandapix.
The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.