With climate change, the stakes are high. After all, we’re talking about saving the world, right? As one Native American proverb explains, “We don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
Does all that sound a bit heavy? Don’t sweat it. Really, for as serious as this issue is, there are enormous opportunities to have a boatload of fun! As a parent, nothing brings more joy than to see a child have that moment of clarity, an instant in time where their faces light-up, and you realize that they “get it”!
Here are a few thoughts on how you can experience those moments, sometimes phrased in a way a child might better understand.
Talking Climate Change
Whew! It’s like explaining gravity, right? It won’t be covered in one conversation, and that’s OK. In fact, when it’s explained in pieces it can be transformed into a series of summer projects and experiments, like…
What are “gray bodies”?
Place an object outside where it can be exposed to the sun. Place another object of a similar size next to it. Make sure that one object is a darker color than the other. This works best when you have three or more object of a similar size and shape, and with varying shades. You can then explain the idea of a range or “gradient”.
The objects don’t need to be varying shades of gray, although it’s easier to explain. They can be a range of light and dark colors. If that’s the plan, you’ll need to explain the idea of lighter and darker colors.
What is the “greenhouse effect”?
Place an empty aquarium (small enough to carry without straining yourself) upside down in your yard. Place a thermometer inside and outside the aquarium and note the difference in temperature over time. Explain that the Earth can become hotter when certain gases become trapped under a layer of gases – much like the glass trapping the heat in the aquarium.
What is a gas?
A gas surrounds you and contains the air you breathe. The two gases which make most of the Earth’s atmosphere are oxygen and nitrogen. Although you can’t always see a gas, you know it’s there. You can feel it every time you stand in front of a fan or blow out a candle.
Carbon dioxide (a gas given-off by a burning candle and other sources of fire) is an example of a greenhouse gas. It’s also a gas which plants absorb (“breathe”) in order to live. Plants expel oxygen which humans absorb in order to live. Trees absorb a certain amount of carbon dioxide their lifetime, for example. They reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Want to reduce carbon dioxide and increase oxygen?
Plant a tree. Better yet, grow your own food! Gardening is a tremendous opportunity to get your child outside, connected with the environment, and aware of how all theses topics all tie together. It has tangible rewards which may even influence his/her ideas about good health. One of the best things about it is that, it can be done with any budget.
While your plants are generating oxygen, you may be thinking of how you’re producing carbon dioxide. Get a copy of your last electric bill and write down the number of kilowatt-hours your house consumed. Determine what type of power plants are in your area and calculate the amount of fossil fuel burned to generate your electricity. Then, find ways to reduce it. This is the kind of project which can actually save you money! This also becomes an opportunity to better understand energy consumption in your home.
Use experiments to help a child gain an understanding of the science of climate change. Use projects to apply that understanding in ways which helps the environment and slows its effects. These efforts, will plant the seeds of a conscientious and informed generation of leaders! It will also drive home the idea that the Earth is our home!