Youth Activism: Don’t Silence Their Voices

At our weekly Scout meeting earlier this week we talked briefly about how we, as individuals can make a difference. If you do your duty, then you can make a difference and though you are just one person, together youth activism has the power to impact the world.

Youth activism is youth engagement in community organizing for social change. Youth participation in social change focuses more on issue-oriented activism than traditional partisan or electoral politics.

As hard as it seems, it’s possible to make a difference. All it takes is one idea and the right mix of determination and willpower to effect change at the local level. Start with one thing you’re passionate about and find small, local ways to organize and find solutions to the problem. 

Image of youth activist Greta Thunberg with her sign "Skolstrejk for Klimatet"

GRETA THUNBERG

By now, everyone has heard of Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist focused on the risks posed by climate change. She began her school climate strike only a year ago. This past week, she inspired over 4 million people to take a stand for climate.

“Everyone is welcome. Everyone is needed.”⁣⁣ ~ Greta Thunberg⁣⁣

Greta is great. However, if we center our attention and lift up only the white youth leaders on an international scale, we risk recreating the exact same dynamics of instilling a culture of white supremacy that is present in modern, adult organizing spaces. We risk silencing the voices of black, indigenous, and people of color .

Indigenous youth and adults have been tirelessly leading the fight for climate justice for millennia and yet their voices have not received the same recognition. Let’s celebrate a few of these amazing young activists!

Image of youth activist Autumn Peltier

AUTUMN PELTIER

⁣Autumun Peltier, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in Canada, was appointed chief water commissioner for the Ashinabek Nation and was recently nominated for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize, awarded annually to a child who “fights courageously for children’s rights.” She was only 13-years-old when she addressed the UN General Assembly and told world leaders to “warrior up” to protect water.

Image of youth activist Isra Hirsi

ISRA HIRSI

Isra Hirsi, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike. She helped launch the U.S. movement the same month her mother, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, took office. She says the climate crisis “is the fight of my generation, and it needs to be addressed urgently.”

Image of youth activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez

XIUHTEZCATL MARTINEZ⁣⁣

Earth Guardians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is an indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful voice on the front lines of a global youth-led environmental movement.⁣⁣ He has fought for climate protections and spoken to large crowds about the effects of fossil fuels on the Indigenous and other marginalized communities since he was six years old. In 2015, Martinez and 21 other youths filed a lawsuit against the US Federal government, Juliana et al. v United States et al. They argue that the federal government is denying their constitutional right to life, liberty and property by ignoring climate change. 

ROOTS & SHOOTS

Are you a young person interested in making change, but don’t know where to start? Or are you an adult who is inspired by the recent wave of youth activism in the U.S. and want to help out? Consider Roots & Shoots; join an established group in your area or start a new group for your homeschool community or at your school.

Roots & Shoots, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute, is a global movement of youth who are empowered to use their voice and actions to make compassionate decisions, influencing and leading change in their communities.

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall

Founded by Jane Goodall in 1991, the goal is to bring together youth from preschool to university age to work on environmental, conservation, and humanitarian issues. Roots & Shoots is a movement for youth just like Greta, Autumn, Isra, and Xiuhtezcatl …. just like you or your children.


Volunteer Opportunities for Kids

Volunteer Opportunities for Kids @EvaVarga.netVolunteering is an opportunity to change lives, including your own.  It is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect.

As a family, we have made volunteering and service learning a major component of our homeschool. Over the years, we have had opportunities to volunteer in a variety of ways. I’d like to share some of those experiences with you in hopes of inspiring you to seek out volunteer opportunities for kids in your local community.

Roots & Shoots

My children and I have been active in Roots & Shoots since they were toddlers. Roots & Shoots is a youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane Goodall to place the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people. They are encouraged to work towards three goals: Care & Concern for the Environment, Care & Concern for Animals, and Care & Concern for the Community.

One of the things I love about Roots & Shoots is the flexibility. Through the program, young people map their community to identify specific challenges their neighborhoods face.  From there, they prioritize the problems, develop a plan for a solution, and take action.

Volunteer Opportunities for Kids @EvaVarga.netWe were recently interviewed for a local magazine about our volunteer efforts with Roots & Shoots. My kids loved talking with the reporter about their projects – each sharing what was in their heart and how they have been inspired to do locally.

My son shared his passion for music and talked about how he volunteers regularly at a local retirement home to perform for the residents. He stated, “I really look forward to going. I like giving them something to listen to and I like hearing them share about how music has touched their lives.”

My daughter talked about her long-term study looking at the impact of invasive turtles have on the ecosystem, specifically how they affect the population of native pond turtles. She shared with the reporter the posters she and her friends made to inform the public of the threat releasing pets.

Read my post, Service Learning Through Roots & Shoots to learn more about this dynamic program. You might also consider joining me for a free online course this summer, Turning Learners Into Leaders: Empowering Youth Through Service in Education.

Humane Society / Animal Shelter

Volunteering at a local animal shelter is one of the easiest ways to make a difference. Children can decorate kennels, help with events, foster an animal, or even walk the dogs. Children may be interested in raising monies to purchase food, bedding, or goods as a donation.

When my kids were younger, we volunteered at a shelter regularly to simply play with the cats. They wanted to walk the dogs as well but weren’t quite old enough. Age restrictions will vary so check with your local shelter to learn more.

Rescue Mission / Homeless Shelter

Another great way to give back is to volunteer to serve meals at a homeless shelter. A few years ago, I volunteered in the education department of our local mission and my children were allowed to accompany me. They worked on their own assignments as I walked around the room and helped the women with their coursework and job training skills.

Volunteer Opportunities for Kids @EvaVarga.netLiving History

Some of our fondest memories of volunteering come from our experiences at the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, where we volunteered as living history interpreters, Homeschooling in 1880: Living History Volunteers. In this role, we spent one day a week dressed up in period clothing and told the story of the early pioneers in the high desert. Our story was based loosely on our own ancestors. It was an awesome way to connect with the past as well as develop public speaking skills.

Public Library

My daughter is anxiously awaiting her 13th birthday so that she can serve on our local library’s teen advisory board. In this role she would get to interact with other avid readers, make recommendations to library staff on books, programs, and services, and inform patrons of her favorite books via shelf flags.

What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. ~ Jane Goodall

Adopt-A-Park

Many municipalities utilize partnerships with local organizations to preserve, beautify and maintain neighborhood parks. Some of the tasks could include pruning, raking, weeding, light painting, graffiti removal, litter removal, tree and flower planting. As a part of the turtle project, my daughter is considering this option for the future.

Community Cleanups & Weed Pulls

Lastly, another way to tap into volunteer work is through organizations like church youth groups, scouts, and local agencies. The California Coastal Commission organizes an annual beach cleanup event in the fall each year.

Invasive species have always been a passion for me and we’ve thereby participated in many community weed pulls – both locally and while on vacation. You can read about our weed pull experience in Hawai’i in my post, Hoaloha ‘aina Weed Pull. Can you find a weed pull or cleanup in your community?

~ ♥︎ ~

I have shared additional resources and ideas for volunteer opportunities in my post, It’s Our Turn to Lead: Earth Day 2015,  at Multicultural Kid Blogs. I encourage you to take time to talk over the interests you share as a family and seek out options in your area. In what ways can YOU make a difference?

In Honor of Dr Jane: Every Individual Matters

Dame Jane Morris Goodall is an English primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. She was born today, April 3rd in 1934. She has been a role model to me since I was a young girl. It gives me great pleasure to write this post as part of the Earth Month blog hop and share it with you on her birthday.

2015 marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day and will be celebrated on Saturday, April 18th. It comes during a pivotal time to protect the planet and ensure that world leaders address key issues facing the next generation. There is no better time to get involved and to take action.

Every individual matters.

Every individual has a role to play.

Every individual makes a difference.

In Honor of Dr Jane @EvaVarga.net

My children and I have had the opportunity to meet Dr. Jane on several occasions. Her quiet demeanor and the strength of her conviction always inspire us to do more. In an earlier post, Service Learning Through Roots & Shoots, I shared some of the projects and activities we have undertaken through Roots & Shoots.

Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is the youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane and places the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people.

Just for fun, enjoy this delightful poem by Jane Goodall, The Old Wisdom.

In Honor of Dr Jane @EvaVarga.net

Dr Jane’s Roots & Shoots

Through our participation in Roots & Shoots, we have always looked for ways in which we can show our care and concern for the environment, for animals, and the community. My children and I volunteer in a variety of ways – each choosing projects and service learning activities that are suited to their individual passions.

My daughter is passionate about the environment. She repurposes a variety of things and sells them at local craft sales. She donates a portion of the money she raises to charitable causes. She is also spearheading a long-term project to study the impact of non-native invasive turtles on native species (Saving the Native Turtles and Don’t Let it Loose). My son volunteers regularly at a local retirement home to share his love of music with the residents. He has also coordinated a cupcake sale to raise money for Nystagmus.

Turn Learners into Leaders

This summer, Roots & Shoots is offering an innovative online professional development course. Free and open to everyone, this course will teach participants how to identify and implement a local service learning campaign using the Roots & Shoots program model and grow the next generation of Jane Goodalls.

Complete the course and mentor young people to lead change in their communities by mapping needs, collaborating with stakeholders, and designing practical solutions in the form of campaigns. Connect young people to Dr. Goodall’s message of hope while faciliating a sense of empowerment that comes from helping others.

To join me and other Roots & Shoots leaders around the world in this wonderful course, visit Turning Learners into Leaders.

natural parenting guide and earth month blog hop
To learn more about how you can make a difference, be sure to visit the Earth Month blog hop.

You will find up-cycling crafts, ec0-friendly toys, and gardening tips. You can also enter the giveaway to win one of the fantastic prizes!

Real Life Learning Experiences: Geography & Science

Learning by doing is generally considered the most effective way to learn. The Internet and a variety of emerging communication, visualization, and simulation technologies now make it possible to offer students authentic learning experiences ranging from experimentation to real-world problem solving.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematician Seymour Papert once said,

“We teach numbers, then algebra, then calculus, then physics. Wrong! Start with engineering, and from that abstract out physics, and from that abstract out ideas of calculus, and eventually separate off pure mathematics. So much better to have the first-grade kid or kindergarten kid doing engineering and leave it to the older ones to do pure mathematics than to do it the other way around.”

reallifelearning

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy.

Everybody is motivated by challenge and solving problems. Project-based learning gives everybody a chance to sort of mimic what scientists do, and that’s exciting. Better still, it’s fun if it’s done well.

Geography

While classroom experience is necessary to learn the foundational skills, nothing beats real life experience gained through travel and simply being open to opportunities. In real life, we don’t spend several hours at a time listening to authorities who know more than we do and who tell us exactly what to do and how to do it. We ask questions of a person we’re learning from. We link what the person is telling us with what we already know. We bring what we already know and the experiences we’ve had that are relevant to the topic to the front of our minds.

Students can be engaged in identifying, researching and graphically representing different types of “resources” in their own neighborhoods to create a Community Resource Map. 

  • Where is the library? Where are the parks? Where are various types of businesses?
  • What services are offered at these sites?
  • How can families access them?
  • Where should the neighborhood prioritize building new resources?

Students can also create a directory or a documentary style video. Through these real life learning experiences, students learn research and communications skills, graphics, and computer skills as they create an actual map of their neighborhood.

Additionally, students can develop skills in surveying, geographical information systems (GIS), aerial photography and satellite digital image manipulation; digital mapping, and geographic positioning system (GPS) topographic data.

The process of creating a community map can also help students to identify areas of need. Roots & Shoots utilizes this model for their service learning programs.

lifelearninggeography

One of our favorite hands-on activities is to Create a Geography Picture Dictionary.  As a special travel keepsake, target the illustrations to the region you visit.

Another great hands-on activity is to build your own 3-dimensional topographical map.

When we travel, we engage the kids in using maps to aide in identifying natural landmarks. Read of our experience in discovering the Geology & Geography of the Galapagos.

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Sciences

Like geography, the sciences are a natural first for real life, project based learning. Students can utilize scientific principles and methods to conduct research and develop solutions to medical, forensic, and environmental issues that impact our community.

In a CSI/Criminal Forensics Lab, high school students can explore issues in medical science and human anatomy/physiology through their involvement in scientific research projects, and would investigate how a healthy body functions and how it reacts to disease.

Students could investigate the inner workings of the human mind on the chemical level. Why people behave in certain ways? What factors influence behavior? How is behavior controlled, changed and modified?

Students can use investigative science techniques to solve intriguing problems involving the law. Students would use scientific evidence to paint a picture of what happened in the past. DNA, fingerprinting, physical evidence analysis, scene reconstruction, and biotechnology are some of the techniques that would be introduced.

Students could conduct field research to develop an awareness of the impact of human activities on the environment. The data collected could be used to design and produce environmentally friendly products, solve problems and investigate policies that ensure sustainability and stewardship of the Earth’s resources.

lifelearingscienceMiddle school students may enjoy a Theme Park Project whereby students are required to:

  • Decide on a theme for a new amusement park
  • Design a physical layout
  • Design four rides/attractions and create models of them
  • Determine an initial business plan
  • Create marketing materials to attract the chosen demographic

Real Life Learning is Interdisciplinary

Real life learning allows students to practice thinking across disciplines in organic, natural ways similar to what will be expected of them once they leave their formal education. Because projects reflect real-world challenges and unknowns, students work within a complex environment. They must be able to solve problems and refine their strategies.

Real life projects integrate various content areas and instructional methods and require students to plan their tasks in advance, sequence their work, check their progress. Most projects involve collaborative and group learning scenarios which reflect the demands of the modern workplace. In the end, students celebrate and demonstrate their learning with an exhibition or performance.

My kids are engaged in a long-term project to study the impact of invasive turtles in our local area. Utilizing Google maps, they have begun to create an interactive map to illustrate the locations where native turtles and non-native, invasive turtles have been found. They are also working alongside resource specialists and connecting with community leaders.

These real life learning opportunities enable students to learn how planning, literacy and math skills are foundational in all curricular areas as they put together and present community development proposals.

Real Life Learning Resources

reallifeFor more resources and Ideas for Real Life Learning, visit the iHomeschool Network.

 

Service Learning Through Roots & Shoots

I have coordinated a Roots & Shoots club in one form or another since I first heard Jane Goodall speak at an Oregon Science Teacher’s Conference in 1997. She has been an inspiration to me since I was a little girl. Taking part in Roots & Shoots has not only enabled me to meet Jane Goodall, but has encouraged me to work hard to make a difference.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference, human and non-human alike.” ~ Jane Goodall

servicelearning

Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots is the youth-led community action and learning program of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program builds on the legacy and vision of Dr. Jane Goodall to place the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people. Through the program, young people map their community to identify specific challenges their neighborhoods face.  From there, they prioritize the problems, develop a plan for a solution, and take action.

“What you do makes a DIFFERENCE. You have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall

Service learning projects combine learning goals and community service in ways that can enhance both student growth and the common good. Service learning can help your students become better learners, classmates, and citizens, and can help them make a valuable contribution to their communities.

map

This past summer, Roots & Shoots dramatically redesigned their website and the teaching tools they provide for their group leaders. They offered a four week course titled “Turning Learners into Leaders: Empowering Youth Through Service in Education” and I was delighted to have the opportunity to take part. It revitalized my approach to service learning and renewed my enthusiasm for Roots & Shoots.

I discovered that effective service learning emphasizes the following elements:

  • Integrated Learning
  • Community Need
  • Student Voice
  • Collaboration
  • Civic Responsibility
  • Reflection
  • Evaluation

There are many opportunities to engage students in service learning. Read about some of the projects my Roots & Shoots groups have undertaken over the years. I have color coded them to coordinate with the Roots & Shoots formula for success (Get Engaged, Map It, Take Action, and Celebrate). 

Rainy Days and Fridays: Winter Nature Walks

Nature study has always been a major component of our homeschool. I must admit that when the kids were younger, we ventured outside more regularly and they sketched in their nature journals every week.

Now that they are older and are more involved in extracurriculars as well as social activities, it takes a little more planning on my part to assure that we continue to venture out for leisurely walks.

rainydays

Here in Northern California, we are in the midst of a drought. The water levels have been so low at Shasta Lake that old bridges and railroad tunnels that had been flooded when Shasta Dam was built in the 1940s are now visible again (see my post Feast or Famine: An Historical Nature Study).  We have been praying for rain and these past couple of months, our prayers have been answered.

Winter Nature Walks

When I shared with our local homeschool community the date for our winter nature walk outing, their response was, “But what if it rains?”

In the words of Charlotte Mason, “The fact is, that rain, unless of the heaviest, does the children no harm at all if they are suitably clothed.”

I assured everyone that we would proceed forth in drizzle and chill – just come prepared in wellies and layers. The rains provide us with the opportunity to make wonderful observations .. to study erosion, sedimentation, plant adaptations, and of course weather patterns. Muddy or snow covered ground makes tracking animals so much easier.

Norwegian Proverb: Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær. 
[ There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing. ]

What I love best about these rainy nature study days is the abundance of fungi we are able to observe. imageWe have seen so many fascinating fungi over the years; our favorite is Fly Agaric.

Nature nevers disappoints and this last month we observed several species we haven’t seen before – at least not here in NorCal. It can be a challenge to identify them sometimes, but that is the educational reward upon our return home.

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Submitted to the December Handbook of Nature Study Outdoor Hour Challenge.