Elementary students in North Cowichan are going to be getting some end of year lessons on the importance of being environmentally responsible, and of doing all they can to reduce the human footprint in their region.
North Cowichan has hired fourth year UBC Environmental Sciences student Maureen Nadeau to put together workshops which will be delivered to groupings of K-7 students throughout the municipality.
“I’ll be going into the classrooms, teaching them about hour-long workshops on recycling and waste diversion – what we have in place at the municipality,” Nadeau said.
The idea will be to make the lessons fun.
Nadeau has been given a pretty free hand in terms of the methods she will use to get the message across for kids, and she’s come up with a couple of games that will keep them engaged and having fun.
The recycling relay, for example, will have teams racing to put the right kind of recyclables into the right receptacle – plastics, paper, organics or waste – with the team that gets it right the fastest taking the honours.
Another game, for the Grades 5-7 students, will be an environmental version of Jeopardy, with students picking cards and answering skill-testing questions for points.
“It’s been a lot of fun, I get to be a bit creative with the environmental side of things, which is nice, coming from the science background,” Nadeau said.
Part of the strategy is not only to teach the kids, it’s to have the conservation message diffuse into the homes of students, too.
A lot of the activities Nadeau is designing will have take-home elements. For example, North Cowichan’s waste pick up and removal schedule rivals the periodic table of the elements for its complexity. But if kids can do it, parents should be able to figure it out too.
“I’m going to teach the kids how that works and tell them to take that home and tell their parents,” Nadeau said.
Getting kids to accept the challenge of becoming environmentally responsible is the goal, and Nadeau will encourage them to commit. “There’s a pledge form that I’ve created where they can write what they’ll do to help manage our waste problems, and hopefully they can tell their parents.”
Pledges, the environment and the outdoors have long been a part of Nadeau’s own life. She recalls as a Girl Guide, growing up in her hometown of Sparwood, and later in school, always having a deep regard for the environment and love for nature.
“Anything outdoors, I was out there doing it,” she said. “Then in high school I was always that person who would go around to the lunchroom tables and pick up everyone’s juice boxes, collect them all and put them in the recycling bins for everyone.”
But when she graduated top of her class, people discouraged Nadeau from going into the environmental sciences.
“I never actually thought of it as a career,” she said. “Environmental science wasn’t something people actually told me to do, which was horrible to hear actually. It was more like do engineering, or something like that.”
A year and a half into her university studies she switched streams, opting out of pharmacy and into the field that had always been her first choice. “I just thought environmental science was a way to bring all my passions together,” she said.
Nadeau is hoping some of that passion will rub off on the youngsters she’ll be working with for the next two months, and the adults who’ll be her audience for a couple of months after that.