This week, the Oxford University Press revealed their ‘Children’s Word of the Year’.
The word was decided based on over 134,000 stories submitted to the BBC Radio 2 ‘500 words’ contest. The chosen word appeared an astonishing 3,359 times. The word? Plastic.
The media largely credited this to the surge in popularity of programmes such as Blue Planet, which has been highly popular and has raised awareness of the waste that pollutes our oceans. The suggestion here though is that children are only repeating the sensational things they see in the media. Surely there is a different explanation; one that gives our youth more credit than this. Children are intuitive learners. They will absorb information that interests them from any source. It is a challenge for them to filter what is important from the noise.
It is therefore the responsibility of us all as a community to ensure the right message is heard. The message does not need to be loud and sensational. It does not need to have expensive CGI graphics or famous voices. If the person speaking is known, knowledgeable and trusted then this is enough. Often too, children will learn as much from what they see as what they hear, so we can share our message through what we do as much as what we say.
We are lucky enough to live in a very environmentally conscious community. Many of our island groups show excellent examples of how to care for and respect the world we live in. Whether organising local beach cleans or cutting out single use plastic from your business there is always a way to show you can do your bit.
Our schools and nurseries are and always have been very keen to engage with this message. They understand the importance of impressing the right environmental message at an early age. From growing tomatoes at nursery with a local community group, to learning how to build and maintain a vertical garden at school; children hear these messages of care for the environment, carbon reduction and zero waste. These lessons stay with them and can last a lifetime. An engaging message like this can have a profound, long lasting effect on the world in which we live. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
Teach the young of today about the value of the world in which they live and they will treat their environment with the care and respect it deserves. After all, the children we teach today will shape the world we live in tomorrow.