How a chook helped teach kids about the planet
As the climate change debate held centre stage in Parliament last week, I found myself at a nearby primary school wrestling a chicken for the cameras. With kids milling around, my task was to casually hold this hen (the kids had named “Roast”), while the photographer from the local paper took pictures.
As we struck our pose with beaming smiles, Roast pooed over my new suit confirming the old piece of advice to never work with kids or animals. But of course to take that advice in politics would deprive pollies of 90 per cent of our photo-ops.
In this case, the kids were central to the event at hand: the launching of CarbonKids at Forrest Primary School, Canberra. In equal measure, even though they may not yet realise it, these kids are also central to the debate raging on the Hill.
CarbonKids is an initiative of the CSIRO being undertaken with the support of the Shell company.
It is an initiative which aims to teach science and sustainability to the people who, unlike any prior generation, will live in a world characterised by its carbon use.
The passage last week of the Renewable Energy Target legislation through the Federal Parliament puts in place one of the two pieces of architecture which will take our economy into a less carbon dependant future.
And in advocating the Government’s actions on climate change it is immediately apparent that placing a price on carbon and building renewable energy into our economy is complex.
But many who hear the message struggle to actualise the issue. Most people do not have the opportunity to see places where there is irreversible environmental change. In a test tube carbon dioxide is invisible and harmless.
This difficulty in visualising climate change in part enables sceptics to maintain their position in the face of an overwhelming preponderance of scientific testimony.
Yet, despite not being able to see it with their two eyes, the kids at Forrest Primary School were a revelation.
For all the complexity in the debate on the Hill, the rubber really hits the road in the way our generation asks these kids to live their lives in the future. There is a clarifying simplicity in grappling with grey water and chicken poo.
Teaching the next generation of Australians about the importance of reducing our emissions and living a cleaner, greener future is of great importance.
CarbonKids is a pilot program helping schools improve their environmental performance by building sustainability education into their curriculum. Each school develops its own projects.
At Forrest Primary School students in years 4 and 5 have been researching carbon’s role and movement through the atmosphere, through living organisms and through the Earth. They are looking carefully at how human activities affect the carbon cycle.
At Australind Primary School in Western Australia students have planted an organic vegetable garden watered with grey water from the Home Economics Centre and rainwater from tanks. It is fertilised by chickens and worm castings. The students have built all the garden beds, the paths and the chook pens and they’re now planning to plant a carbon forest.
These lessons also extend beyond the school yard with whole communities seeing and sharing in the work being done at school.
CarbonKids is about understanding climate change and how we can make a difference in the way we live and learn.
Staring into the very eyes of people who will see irreversible environmental change all around them in their lifetime if we do not act now is a powerful visual in a debate whose effects are as yet hard for most individuals to witness.
The challenge of climate change is a challenge today about the consequences of tomorrow.
It is our children today who will bear the effects of climate change far more than the decision makers of today.
To give these kids a carbon education – to engage them as CarbonKids – is one of the most important gifts we can give and a critical contribution to meet the challenge of climate change.
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