Children are our future, and they sure have a daunting environmental conservation task ahead of them.
Bio-literacy and an understanding of ecosystems are topics that have only been included in educational curricula over the last few decades. As adults, we have come to realize that environmental conservation is more important than ever due to the grave damage we have inflicted upon Mother Earth cumulatively over many centuries.
While we want our children to understand the importance of protecting Nature and her countless ecosystems, that last thing we want to do is to frighten them. Learning should be a fun activity for children; if we are to teach them about ecological concerns, we should do it in a friendly manner that encourages curiosity, empathy for nature, and inspires a desire to be part of a solution that feels obtainable.
It’s no secret that children love media, and it can certainly be an effective tool in reaching them and opening up their horizons and eyes to causes. The following films have been created to deliver powerful messages about environmental conservation in a way that children can truly appreciate.
The title of this animated short means "I Hope" in Spanish and "Hope" in Esperanto, which is the language of the film. Parents can read English subtitles to younger children, but those who understand Romance languages will be able to follow along easily enough with the narration.
In this film, Mother Earth is a young planet that cares for humans, but humans overburden her with armed conflict, pollution and consumerism.
The moral of this film is that humans eventually need to learn hard lessons before taking action; some of the hard lessons faced these days include deforestation, endangered species, ecosystem destruction, environmental destruction, and climate change.
The film illustrates that actions such as reforestation can be taken now to mitigate the damage.
The Windmill Farmer
In this inspiring short, a farmer plants a full crop of windmills that run all the way to his country home. One day, a powerful winter storm destroys the windmills. Despite a mini Ice Age taking place after the storm, the windmills eventually grow back. The moral of this film is that Nature is cyclical, but we must think in a forward, protective fashion so that ecosystems can make it to the next cycle. The farmer was wise in choosing an unusual crop such as windmills, which in reality are wind turbines used to produce clean electricity.
Children's relationship with nature is important for their development. This short film tells the story of Jimmy, a boy who enjoys living in a tree house. One day him and his family move away to a part of the city where all trees have been cut.
Unbeknownst to Jimmy, his old tree follows him to the city and eventually finds him.
The city children, not accustomed to trees, are excited to see one, and Jimmy is happy to invite them into his old tree house. This film shows the special bond that humans can create with Nature — especially in their early years. Such bonds often result in respect for nature and an understanding of conservation as a crucial part our lives and the future.
Pets are closer to Nature than we realize, and children love animals! In this short film a young boy is fixated on violent video games and spends most of his days indoors, until one day his mother gifts him with a playful puppy that happens to be missing a front paw. This disability initially turns off the young boy; however, the puppy's tenacity wins him over before he knows it and they both head outside to play catch and enjoy a sunny day.
Paths to discovery and a love of nature are different for every child. The lesson of this film is that children can connect with Nature through their pets. Animals have an innate connection with Nature that we should seek to revive within ourselves.
You may remember The Scarecrow from Chipotle's 2013 campaign. In this short film a scarecrow works in a heavily industrialized meat processing plant. The scarecrow seems clearly unhappy with his line of work. He is acutely aware that something just doesn't feel right and he's concerned about the way the humans seem to enjoy processed meat so much without seeing what goes on at the factory. He sneaks into other factories that purportedly manufacture "natural" foods only to discover mistreated animals. Back home in the country, the scarecrow is inspired by his own humble garden to dream of a better way for everyone. He starts his organic farm and sets up shop in the city. His way of helping to spread a love of truly fresh and healthy food and to help cultivate a better world.
One way children can connect with Nature is by learning to appreciate real, organic farming and well rounded foods that truly help to nourish our bodies, not simply sustain them. While parts of this film are focused on factory farmed and processed meats, which are detrimental not only to our health but also to the environment, the main takeaway is the overall concept of choosing a more conscientious line of food production.
The Scarecrow can be viewed, for free here on YouTube. Warning: This short film does show a few sad animals along with an overall 'low' feeling music. You may want to watch it yourself first before deciding to watch it with young children.
In the end, the aforementioned animated shorts form one step towards teaching our children environmental awareness and how their conservation actions today can spell a happy ending for Nature and the world around them.
If you'd like some other great resources be sure to check out the articles below:
- Four Smart Ways to Keep Children Caring About Our Planet
- Getting Kids to Play Outdoors in the Digital Age
- The Importance of Encouraging Children to Enjoy Nature
Children are naturally curious and eager to help. With a little direction and involvement you can help to nurture a love of nature that will last a lifetime.