Big Environmental Lessons from Small Town Kids
In the small hamlet of Clandonald, AB, one would find Clandonald School and the amazing kids who make up its “Warriors of the Rainbow” club. With a passion for protecting the earth as well as a close relationship to their local environment, we city folk certainly have a lot to learn from them.
The Warriors of the Rainbow club helps students at Clandonald School to hone their green habits. They named their club after what is believed to be a Cree legend, which states that the Rainbow Warriors, when united together, will help restore the health of the earth. With the help of their dedicated teachers, these elementary students work together on a number of projects to take care of their section of the planet. To learn more about these Emerald Award-winning kids and what lessons we city dwellers can take from them, I spoke with their teacher, Geralyn McCormack, who leads the Warriors of the Rainbow program.
Trusting That the Seed Will Grow
One of the club’s many projects is a vegetable garden, which allows the kids to experience the excitement and pride that comes with growing their own food. The Clandonald School garden recently expanded to three garden beds and two apple trees. McCormack says the Warriors of the Rainbow love working on their garden.
“When it comes time to plant, I’ve never seen kids who love dirt more!” laughs McCormack.
Besides just being a chance to have fun and play in the dirt, the Clandonald vegetable garden helps teach the Warriors of the Rainbow an important lesson: that there are real benefits to environmental initiatives. As well, getting to taste the reward of their hard work shows the kids the value of investing in the future. They come to understand that sometimes you don’t see change immediately but that many small initiatives will, in fact, lead to something significant— in this case, a jar of pickled carrots.
This is What Happens When Students Lead by Example
McCormack makes it clear that Clandonald students are eager to do the right thing, particularly when it comes to making sure their community is clean. The students know that if they ever see someone litter, they can kindly tap them on the shoulder and say, “pardon me but I think you dropped this”. Could you imagine if everyone adopted that habit?
I find it fascinating that I’ve had to persuade numerous adults to recycle but never once had to convince a child to. While discussing the kids’ passion for recycling, McCormack recounted a story about one field trip where her and her students noticed there were no recycling bins for the milk cartons they had been provided with. As a result, the class opted to take the cartons back to school so that they could properly dispose of them. As for me, I would love to see an entire generation raised like these kids, always ready and willing to do the right thing.
Empowering the Children
One of the excuses people give when explaining why they don’t make a bigger effort to protect the environment is that they don’t think that one tiny change is enough to make a difference. At Clandonald School however, McCormack always reminds her students that “just because [they’re] young doesn’t mean that people won’t listen to [them] or that [they] can’t make a difference.”
With this mindset, the Warriors of the Rainbow are truly motivated to make a difference. Every year, the students participate in their community’s clean-up event. McCormack revealed that, for the past two years, her and her students have been the only volunteers for the clean-up. Not only are these kids the only ones tackling this job but they are also covering more and more area each time they set out. This hands-on activity shows the Warriors of the Rainbow the value in taking action and the remarkable environmental improvements that come when people take care of the spaces they inhabit.
The Warriors of the Rainbow should be an inspiration to many, but especially for those who call cities home. It’s sometimes hard for city dwellers to remember that we do have the power to make a difference when we live in a place that constantly reminds us of how small we are. Ultimately, it’s up to us to remind ourselves of McCormack’s wise words, “just because you’re little doesn’t mean that you can’t make a difference.”
(Photo provided by Geralyn McCormack)