how to foster a sustainable mindset at home and in the classroom

As children return to school from the summer holidays, we’ve been thinking about the growing importance of a subject that should be featured more in curriculums: the development of behaviours and predispositions towards sustainability.

When shaped during early years, these eco-conscious attitudes can have a profound impact on future adult lives, not to mention the future of our planet. So how can these attitudes be successfully instilled from an early age?

The answer lies in socialisation – i.e. the process of learning to behave in a way that is deemed both acceptable and desirable to society. Learning not just from family members, but also teachers and engaging role models, is crucial to the nurture of environmentally friendly behaviours.

Family – our first teachers

Family is the first and most influential teacher in a child’s life. Children learn by observing the actions and attitudes of their parents and siblings, which means that when a family embraces sustainable practices, they set a powerful example. Children come to accept these behaviours as common practice and necessary for caring for the environment.

Imagine a scenario in which a five-year-old observes their parents diligently sorting and recycling cardboard boxes from packages delivered to their home. This simple act communicates the value of recycling and teaches the child that taking care of the environment is a shared family responsibility. Over time, this behaviour becomes ingrained, shaping a future grown-up’s predisposition towards sustainability.

Educators – our appointed teachers

As important as families are in a child’s upbringing, teachers are just as instrumental in shaping young minds. In the classroom, lessons that highlight the importance of recycling can instil a sense of purpose and environmental responsibility in students. Teachers can organise hands-on activities that involve recycling cardboard, allowing children to see the tangible impact of their actions.

Moreover, when educators demonstrate eco-conscious behaviours, such as reusing cardboard for school projects or implementing recycling programs, students are more likely to follow suit outside of the classroom. It creates a supportive environment where sustainability is not just taught, but also practiced and embraced.

As part of a learning environment, educational materials play a vital role in shaping children’s perceptions of sustainability. Whether it’s books, documentaries, or interactive resources that focus on environmental issues and solutions, all these sources provide an invaluable asset for teachers.

Role models – the teachers we choose

Beyond the family and classroom, children often look up to pop culture figures as role models they end up learning from.

The figures – both real or fictional – who advocate for sustainability or participate in eco-friendly initiatives can have a lasting impact on children. Their actions, whether it’s recycling cardboard or reducing plastic waste, can resonate with young minds, making eco-consciousness appear trendy and aspirational.

Additionally, the more admired the pop culture figure, the larger the network of fans taking on their teachings and behaviours, resulting in a widespread adoption of eco-conscious attitudes.

Knowledge is power

Ultimately, the development of eco-conscious behaviours and predispositions in children through socialisation is a collaborative effort involving family, teachers and role models.

Now that we’re at the start of a new school year, we have an opportunity to start shaping and nurturing young eco-conscious minds, ensuring that they grow up with a deep-rooted commitment to sustainability and the overall health of our planet.