Senior Learning Officer Sarah Duffy gives tips on how to empower young people to engage with environmental issues.
Today, we are seeing more and more young people make headlines as they take on the world’s biggest environmental issues, from plastic pollution to climate change. In order to take on these challenges, young people need to have the opportunities to learn about the environment in a way that not only inspires them, but that motivates and empowers them.
Zoos can offer a unique learning opportunity by providing a real-life context from which to engage with nature and wildlife from around the world. In order to make these experiences more relevant to learners, we can first use local examples to help connect children to wider global issues.
Our Plastics: Impacts and Actions workshop does exactly that. Aimed at Key Stage 2 groups, the session introduces the ZSL #Oneless campaign and uses local rivers (particularly the Thames) to highlight how close we really are to the world’s oceans. During the session, learners investigate plastic pollution and how plastic waste produced on land can lead to problems for marine life. At the end of the session, we ask the group to consider actions they can take to help reduce plastic pollution, encouraging them to consider their own actions and the positive impact they can have.
As zoo educators, the impact we can have on learners is often limited to one interaction, so most opportunities to foster connections between themselves and the environment need to be presented in their everyday lives, for example, through environmental learning embedded within the curriculum and other aspects of school life. Here are some top tips for helping engage young people with the environment:
- Get outdoors and investigate!
Promote opportunities for enquiry-based learning through experiences outside the classroom by planning visits to local green spaces, carrying out litter picks, litter surveys and more.
- Problem solve!
Identify environmental issues in your local area and allow time to work together and come up with solutions – such as planting wildflowers to encourage native wildlife or getting more recycling bins for the school grounds.
Not only will this provide a great wealth of opportunities to link with the curriculum, it will encourage the development of social and emotional aspects of learning through engagement of intrinsic values such as curiosity, creativity and unity with nature.
- Take action!
Young people need to be optimistic about the future and confident in their ability to affect change. Allowing them to put their problem solving powers into action within the school and wider community adds value to their learning and empowers them to take responsibility. Why not fundraise to create a new local nature space, create a plan to reduce plastic waste or set up food waste composting at school.
Select a blog
Our people are our greatest asset and we realise our vision for a world where wildlife thrives through their ideas, skills and passion. An inspired, informed and empowered community of people work, study and volunteer together at ZSL.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo, bringing you extraordinary animal facts and exclusive access to the world's oldest scientific zoo.
Do you love wildlife? Discover more about our amazing animals at the UK's biggest zoo!
We're working around the world to conserve animals and their habitats, find out more about our latest achievements.
From the field to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
A day in Discovery and Learning at ZSL is never dull! The team tell us all about the exciting sessions for school children, as well as work further afield.
Every month, one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the Month.
Read testimonials from our Members and extracts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine, Wild About.
The Chagos archipelago is a rare haven for marine biodiversity. Hear from the team about our projects to protect the environments in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).
ZSL works across Asia, from the famous national parks of Nepal to marine protected areas in the Philippines. Read the latest updates on our conservation.
An Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.