When my four-year-old granddaughter, Alma, heard her mom using the word, environment, she quickly asked her where she had heard that word.

Surprised, my daughter answered her with a question, “where had she heard that word?”

Alma explained that she had learned about the environment at her school and that she and her “Green Room” classmates were going to “Actually save the environment!”

My daughter replied that that was great news, then asked how they were going to do that. Alma described that they were going to recycle things and reuse things —so there isn’t a lot of trash on the planet. She elaborated, “The earth is our home, and if we don’t take care of it, we can’t just move to another planet, like Mars or Saturn.”

As part of her class’s efforts, they have been busy making play-dough this week, for a sale to friends and family—with the proceeds going to adopt a polar bear. As Alma proudly proclaims, “We’re going to save the polar bears too!”

Introducing the observance of Earth Day to young children is important for many reasons. First and foremost, it is essential to note that the next generation will face daunting challenges related to climate change and environmental issues. Laying a foundation that provides the notion of stewardship will be the first step in ensuring their critically needed commitment as they become adults.

For real change to occur in our efforts to save the earth, governments must recognize and respond to the effects of climate change with meaningful policies. Citizens must demand and support policies that are “earth-friendly,” then work and sacrifice to implement them.

While an effort to adopt one polar bear may seem insignificant, it is one of the many ways that the seeds of taking care of our home—the earth—are planted. Discussions such as: trying not to use too much water or electricity, caring for and planting trees and gardens are examples of simple ideas that can be introduced to young children.

Just as Alma and her classmates enthusiastically embraced this spring observance, children and adults around the world are embracing the urgent need to care for our planet.

By celebrating Earth Day with our families, we teach children responsibility and problem-solving; our community efforts reinforce the concepts of cooperation and collaboration, which in turn yields community connection.

 

This post originally appeared on www.littlefolksbigquestions.com