Staff at Evanston Public Library’s Robert Crown Center branch invited parents to talk about how to engage in climate change conversations with their children in an age-appropriate way at a webinar Wednesday evening.
Genie Albina, Evanston/Skokie School District 65’s Earth Week Environmental Curriculum lead, led the discussion. She emphasized the importance of adjusting the conversation to children’s age, growth and personality, recognizing these discussions can become difficult for a variety of reasons.
Though the conversation may vary depending on the children’s maturity and responsiveness, Albina said family discussion about climate change can be more gentle.
“We don’t start with exactly how things go, just like we don’t start with exactly how things go when we talk about sex education,” Albina said. “You begin with an understanding and appreciation, and then you can say, ‘Well, this is what’s going on.’”
She also stressed the importance of maintaining a positive and forward-thinking tone within the discourse. It’s critical, she said, to include actions and solutions to minimize distress.
Albina, a former District 65 teacher, helped create an action-oriented environmental curriculum for Earth Week in the district. She understood the benefits of hands-on ecology learning, she said, after her 5-year-old son came home from school wanting to put stickers on the family’s windows. He had learned in school that day that doing so makes birds less likely to knock into windows and get hurt.
Albina said she tries to teach her children through climate action. Her family picks up trash on walks and rides bikes across town.
“They pick up on those subtle things,” Albina said. “So my hope is that when they’re adults, they will be using rain barrels, composting, riding bikes and using reusable bags — things I didn’t know of when I was a kid -– and keep adding more on to that.”
Sylvia Wooller, an Evanston parent, said the event motivated her to think more optimistically about climate change when she talks to her children about the subject.
When she once expressed her frustrations and anxiety about climate change to her children, Wooller said her children became very distressed.
“Adults should be very careful not to say negative things to children because it can backfire,” Wooller said. “As a grownup, it’s better to be like, ‘I am part of the problem, and I’m trying to be part of the solution. Let’s try to be a part of the solution together.’”
Bea Echeverria, a branch assistant at the library and event organizer, spearheaded the library’s climate action banner, working to formalize the branch’s team’s climate justice activities since summer 2021.
The library will provide other sustainability services in the future through events like the Repair Cafe and the Spring Bike tune-up. These projects aim to provide the necessary tools and resources to enjoy and bond with nature, she said.
“In terms of programming, we’re fantastic amplifiers,” Echeverria said. “By providing exciting activities that ignite interest and the drive to take better care of ourselves, I attempt to make programs accessible and engaging to everyone.”
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