Honestly, I am quite sad and worried with the number of parents complaining and concerns about the same issues with theirs children (teens), and absolutely clueless about what to do. It seems that we ("we" - generalizing) lost the control, especially because of the insecurity that we are transferring to them.
Let's " roll up our sleeves, and come up with alternatives to bring them back. It might be, and I hope so, a fun ride!
So, I thought you could be interested on the notes that I prepared last year for Lorenzo’s School, Riverdale Country School’s Sustainability and Wellness Committee, regarding to common challenges that we are facing to raise this new generation. I added, as a reference, my highlights from the book, also relevant here: “The Last Child in the Woods” - Saving Children From Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. (I love this book! it contains the principles that I used to create PeKi)
On my Notes, my target is communication, the approach that we have with our children.
The main issues are: E-communication; Nature Exposure; Wellness and Sustainability
Just to let you know how my conversation with The Head of Middle School, Milton Sipp, started, he asked me:
"What do you think we could do to change it?" - meaning the negative impacts of e-communication.
My very spontaneous answer was:
"We talk too much"
We talk too much, but don’t necessarily communicate well with our children. The e-communication problem starts from “helicopter parenting” where we over analyze and over explain many subjects.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Albert Einstein.”
Einstein’s observation is truly relevant to engage this new generation with the sustainability chain and wellness education, which is all connected. We have to change our thinking!!!
I believe that we need to improve our communication and create a new and simpler way of presenting and teaching values to our children.
In addition to that, most importantly is to return more often to nature, one of our greatest allies. Simply including it more in our lives immediately reduces the stress created by too much e-communication.
“In our zest for making them aware of and responsible for the world’s problems, we cut our children off from their roots” - David T. Sobel MD – Director of the of the Center for Place-based Education at Antioch New England Graduate School
Sobel describes his fears that a rigid environmentally correct curriculum sometimes ends up distancing children from, rather than connecting them with the natural world. The way that the curriculum is presented can cause Ecophobia, a fear of ecological deterioration.
Once again, I use this analogy to describe the opposite result that we are getting in many matters by over-analyzing and over-discussing many important subjects, not just the environmental concerns, but also issues relevant to our early teenagers (e-communication, health, social behavior and sexual education - More references on Nature Education below).
The following is my “Organic Manual” for E-etiquette, Sustainability & Wellness
Change the adult’s habits first, as a reference
Lecture less about it and act more (it works for all subjects)
Change E-routine at home
Create an appealing environment/ambience and plan activities to attract the whole family to get together, at home and outdoors
New rules and E-campaign at school (see an idea below)
Provide an Educational Guide for proper recycling (e-waste, types of plastic, etc)
Educate all parties on School’s ECO program and encourage adoption at home
Insert the Compos Routine
Exhibition with Recyclables & Fundraising
Create a new routine at school for a better eating habits
Organize a Cultural Gourmet Event to highlight better eating habits
We should set up new habits with our Families.
Starting from us not being on line all the time at home, and creating another atmosphere, is already a good beginning. Listen to music, come up with a game to play together, a big puzzle, family reading, playing Trivial Pursuit, leaving smartphones at the door like shoes, etc. It may sound silly or old fashioned, but it could help, gradually, help to interact the family, and release the unilateral focus on electronics.
Let’s create a School recommended policy for home and have the entire school participate in its creation with non-electronic rules and things to do as a New York family.
Use electronics in public in a way that is socially more polite and respectful
No smartphones at or on any meal table
No conversations on the phone while paying or ordering something
No electronics on while visiting someone or attending a social event
No smartphone at concerts and movies
No talking loud on the phone
My suggestion is to collect information about, what we parents, are in fact doing to change the electronic habits, how the kids are responding to that, and how the school is dealing with that as well, so we could connect the dots.
Challenge the Parents: E- Etiquette at School
At meetings or events at school, have a desk with a person (volunteer or school member) to hold the phones, like a coat check and give a "sticker of honor" for the person participation during the event. It is becoming cool again, like not smoking.
The campaign may go on with a collection of stickers, creating a contagious excitement among the students, about taking breaks from e-communication.
The school could provide a line phone available at school, in case someone really needs to contact parents.
Educational Guide for Proper Recycling
Pros x Cons
Many resources exist. Lets identify the best ones and provide to students and parents. Here is a list of ideas:
How to properly recycle
Advantages of plastic clothing
Demonstrations about smarter consuming, less waste
Give some practical ideas of how to incorporate realistically actions that we could, at least practice one in our lives. For example:
Instead of buying 3 regular t-shirts on sale, choose one, that comes from recyclable material, or from a local store;
Instead of using many plastic cups, watch out for yours at public events or find a favorite bottle or squeeze and carry it on;
Think twice before making many unnecessary “car trips”, optimizing time and polluting less;
Re -use containers,
Avoid plastic bags;
Create a composting class (workshop) or online, for the families, so they can implement composting system at home. Start the habit at the cafeteria, like the Lower School does. After starting the program, the kids started being more conscious, wasting less food, according to the kitchen’s staff, that weights the food scraps every day, and shows them the numbers.
Enthusiastic Campaign for Recycling
At home and at school - that involves and cause long lasting effect in our habits - recycle at home and bring back to school for arts & crafts exhibitions – try to list for two weeks, what each one save per week and discuss at home and at school – maybe with some “prize”.
At School and an Auction of the art pieces to raise money to apply the campaign at public - Implement some garbage disposables created/decorated by the students.
Pick ups for specific types of recycling (particularly electronics)
Work on agreements to maintain regular pick-ups with public/private organizations that work on integrating the whole chain of sustainability: the collectors of e-waste, compost garbage, artists and educators who transform garbage into art or useful pieces. Riverdale Country School, for example, has already sponsored an “E- Recycling” campaign last year. Lets keep doing that! Electronic waste is among the most pollutive.
Food Habits (covered already by the new campaign at school, which demands the students not to use any sort of electronics during the lunch time, and simply focus on the meal and socializing)
Will cause many positive effects: care for the environment, habit of eating fresh food, emotional satisfaction going through the therapeutic process of literally, planting, cultivating, waiting, appreciating and tasting your own harvest and, of course, for the natural benefits of being in NATURE (*** idea for gardening at school and **** reference for the importance of exposing our kids to nature)
Cultural Gourmet Event - Bring families together, remembering every family cultural roots and sharing with others, through food.
Practical Steps of the Volunteers at School:
Present the ideas to the Committee and the teachers involved
Advocate and architect the connections among the teachers and deans, to include it on the curriculum and highlight the importance of those matters, despite the academics priorities.
If the “Green Guide” is approved, work on a presentation with beautiful images and music
If the Art Context and Fundraising for the Sustainability Fund is approved, work with the school on logistics, while the teachers develop the context with their students
Suggest that the teachers start a campaign for the students bring recyclables from home garbage
Try to review the set up of the refuse cans, according to what is really effective to be recycled
Present the company that has a nice hydroponic vegetable set up to implement in the cafeteria or something similar (demonstrating how easy it is to grow vegetables / herbs at home).
Work on the Permaculture** method with The Horticulturist Teacher, and recruit students for planting vegetables in the spring, and later, engage them for discussing recipes with their harvest
Establish The Committee for the Cultural Gourmet Event
Overall Program Goals
Improvement on Communication Skills (less e-communication)