Imagine yourself walking in nature on a beautiful morning – the bright golden sun peeking through the mountains, a river dancing to its tune, a meandering road leading to a house surrounded by lush green trees. What does this remind you of? It’s one of the first artworks we learnt to draw as children – a scenery. The form may have varied from child to child but this drawing is a memory that is universal in its nature, and nostalgic. It is a powerful representation of the world we imagine for ourselves and our children alike.
Our connection to nature starts when we are kids. It is all around us – in the art we make, the poems we read and the stories we hear. Yet, somehow, we seem to be losing this connection and contributing to climate change. Hence, now more than ever, it is imperative for adults to start having conversations on climate change with children, imbibe the shared commitment to the well-being of our planet and its people, and to celebrate the beauty and abundance of nature around us. At Slam Out Loud, this is what we aim to do.
Slam Out loud (SOL) is a not-for-profit that builds Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) and Life Skills in students through art forms like storytelling, poetry, visual arts and theater to enable children from disadvantaged communities find their voice through creative expression. SEL skills including communication, critical thinking, creativity and empathy are essential for the holistic development of an individual. These help children become self aware, engage in effective communication, build strong relations, cope better with challenges, and aid academic learning. Children are able to empathise with the world around them, communicate their fears, hopes and dreams, and collaborate with others to drive change. They are able to build engaging conversations about nature loss and climate crisis, reflect on the value of being nature positive, and realize their role in curating and creating green spaces. By nurturing creativity and imagination in our children through SEL and art, we can foster the next generation of problem solvers, innovators, and stewards of the environment.
But how do we start conversations with children on climate action? As caregivers, this question can be especially daunting. It is our responsibility to share the right knowledge with our children and build agency to express themselves. This is where art and SEL play an important role. It is a powerful medium of expression and learning that empowers children with agency and voice, and finding creative solutions. To start having conversations using art, sit with your child and draw the scenery that we all drew as children. Look around and discuss the difference in the trees and water bodies of the real world and the scenery. Make climate change contextual. Identify your plant type and explore how humans and animals are so similar in expressing emotions. Have the children seen a puppy around them jumping with joy? Well, the next time they feel joyful, guide them to notice the spring in their step just like the puppy. Through this process, help children understand climate change, express themselves, and explore their connection to nature.
As children start engaging in these conversations, they may experience a multitude of feelings that they have to work through. As adults, we can equip ourselves and them with coping strategies. Pause, reflect, engage them in mindfulness activities – practice deep breathing, visualise a walk in nature, imagine sitting in an empty field and feeling a cool breeze lightly brushing past you. Hold a safe space for them to process and express their emotions. Start building hope for a sustainable future through climate action. Share powerful stories of people helping and taking care of the climate worldwide and within their own communities. Tell stories of young climate activists and create a comic strip with the children imagining a conversation between them and other climate activists around the world discussing sustainable solutions to climate change. Let children realise the power of the collective in fighting the crisis.
While talking about the big picture, remind children of the deep impact our simplest actions can have. Engage in climate action with them at home and in school – plant seeds with them, take care of birds and animals. Create a climate action checklist and get children invested in the everyday things we do to preserve our resources – closing water taps when not in use, creating bags and blankets out of old clothes and decorating them, segregating waste etc. Don’t forget to acknowledge climate conscious behaviour when you see it and be inspired by the leaps that children make in creating a sustainable future.
Children are deep thinkers and perceptive individuals with a strong desire to bring change. Our role is to empower them with a voice of change. It is this agency that has allowed Supriya and Muskan, SOL students, to write a poem about the anguish that the Earth is facing due to climate change. It has allowed Narayanai to write a poem calling on people to restore the beauty of nature. It is time to empower our children to leverage art as an advocacy tool towards climate issues and promote nature positivity. Let us make the sceneries we drew as children a reality through collaboration, creativity and collectivism. Let’s harness the power of art and SEL to make more space for nature in our lives, homes, hearts and minds, a small step at a time.
Please see CNBC-TV18’s video below and hope you consider sharing it with your network. Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnVsxSO8S_g Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CrLpnCcIRwR/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY%3D
Written by: Shriya Vaidya, Curriculum Manager, Slam Out Loud.