Talking to children about complex issues, like sustainability, can be daunting. Many young people are becoming exposed to climate change and its impacts through social media and conversations around them, making it an important discussion for families to have to help kids understand and address future challenges.
Sustainability is about building a better world for all, ensuring resources last for future generations, and promoting positive environmental and social impact focused on eliminating poverty, reducing inequalities and fighting climate change.
“Sustainable action is a core part of Scouting,” said Scouts Canada Youth Program Specialist, Siobhan Ward. “Scouts are active global citizens committed to doing their part to make the world a better place. Through action-based and collaborative learning, they discover kids have the power to make a big impact – no matter their age”
Sustainability is a broad topic and knowing how to broach the conversation can be tough. Scouts Canada is sharing seven tips to help families drive understanding and motivation, and help kids develop critical thinking, problem solving and leadership skills.
1. Encourage sustainable habits through play. Making a difference can be fun. While a documentary about climate change may not interest a five-year-old, gamification, play and interactive activities are great ways to engage children, educate them about important issues and also take action to make a positive impact on the environment or community. Try a game of climate charades to learn about the causes and effects of climate change or explore clean energy by building a miniature wind turbine. Scouts Canada has 265 activities themed around sustainability at scouts.ca/resources/activity-finder.
2. Focus on their interests. The United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer families a variety of avenues to plan activities that engage their children’s interests. For those who love the water, “life below water” is a great SDG to focus on. Try reading books or watching television shows and movies that feature sea creatures, then plan a shoreline cleanup, observe the health of a local pond and focus on forming sustainable habits that benefit waterways.
If your child is more of a people person, “no poverty” might be a SDG to focus on. Plan a few activities that support those in your community like creating care packages for individuals experiencing homelessness or spending a day performing random acts of kindness.
3. Foster critical thinking. Asking questions helps identify what children already think and know, and provides a starting point to discuss their ideas. Engage their problem solving skills to encourage them to develop solutions.
4. Use examples to offer context. Matching examples of scenarios that impact their lives, or the lives of kids their own age, helps make an issue relatable and understandable. Use an example they can see close to home and then connect it to a global issue.
5. Focus on the positive. Sustainability can be overwhelming and scary if the focus is solely on the problems. Having a solutions-oriented mindset enables families to take a positive approach and help young people feel empowered to take action rather than be discouraged by problems that seem unsurmountable.
6. Learn together. Sustainability is a journey for everyone, and can be an enjoyable way to spend time together as a family. Whether volunteering at a local foodbank or going zero waste camping, working together builds social connection, community spirit and shared values.
7. Track your progress. Making impact measurable helps underscore the value of every action and fosters a growth mindset. Create a chart or scrapbook and track any actions towards sustainable outcomes. Set goals and arrange celebrations for achieving milestones – like a special treat or fun activity. Small actions may not seem like much on their own, but looking back over a year of activities demonstrates a bigger picture. Kids will feel proud of their accomplishments and motivated to continue making a difference.
Not sure where to get started? Scouts Canada is launching an eight-week sustainability-themed challenge called “Around the World in 60 Days” and is inviting young people across Canada to join in – they don’t have to be Scouts to participate.
Through fun and engaging activities rooted in sustainability, children and youth will embark on exciting story-driven adventures set virtually in eight different countries. The activities will introduce topics such as inequality, food security, melting icecaps, and mental and physical heath; and encourage creative problem solving and reflection to drive awareness and development outcomes. The challenge runs October 4 – November 28, with a video released every Monday to launch each weekly challenge at scouts.ca/around-the-world.
Girls, boys and young adults ages 5-26 can also join Scouts to participate as part of a group. Visit scouts.ca to register.