Teaching Environmental Justice in Early Childhood


Scientists agree that climate change is a real threat to the earth’s future. The impacts of rising temperatures on the earth from unchecked greenhouse gas emissions are detailed in a 2019 UN climate report, laying out a sobering picture of what we can expect in the near future. Students are leading the charge in combating this crisis, with groups like Zero Hour and U.S. Youth Climate Strike standing up for their futures and advocating for changes in climate policy. But what about our youngest learners? How can we encourage young children to become the future leaders in the fight for climate justice?

Early childhood units on the environment are often reduced to tropes like “reduce, reuse, recycle,” “don’t litter,” and “turn off the lights and water.” These ideas are certainly important and worth teaching to students. They are tangible concepts that are easy for young children to understand and put into action. But the work should not stop there. Young students need to see how these actions fit into the larger picture of environmental justice and fighting for a better and more just earth for everyone.



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