Big Change Happens in Small Ways at New School-West

by Kristin Sherman

As a preschool director I’m witness to change over time and certain shifts in social consciousness. The philosophy in our school, The New School-West Preschool, is influenced by schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. There’s a great respect for the children’s ideas, and curriculum is based on their reactions and interests in the world around them, of which the environment is a major part.

Our curriculum, guided by the students, becomes communication about the hazards of littering and its impact on stormwater and the ocean at large. They insist on making signs and setting up phone trees to inform their community that littering hurts our environment.  Underneath their efforts, I begin to understand that their solution to the unchanging habits of older generations like mine is to inform-because they think we don’t know.

This is such an innocent, sweet, and terrifying realization, that I begin to wash my Yoplait cup each morning, and toss it in the recycling bin. After all, I know better, and I’ve been held to a higher standard, a new normalcy struggles to take hold.

I think about the world around me in regard to our environment and it is something our staff strives to share with the children at New School-West every single day. Surely I’m not the only one who cringes at the supermarket when I imagine the derisive looks I get for my mismatched reusable bags. How often have I forgone the kitchen composting because the walk to the backyard is inconvenient?

Convenience has become my generations’ way of life. Why do we turn so readily to that plastic water bottle when reusable containers are everywhere? We buy foods in convenient packages for lunches and quick snacks. We seal fresh fruit in sandwich bags and tote them around in paper lunch sacks all to be thrown away at the end of every day.

I think to when this generation of parents were children, and reflect on the differences today’s children face as compared to my own childhood. I think of the amount of information we had as children, and the freedoms and open spaces we took as our birthrights. All my extracurricular information came from my family and the library. Now, my open fields are strip malls, my secret hiking trails are gated, marked and charged an entrance fee. There has been a huge shift in resources and therefore, in upbringing.

But the children’s lunches are quite different here at the school and it is inspiring. They eat seaweed from reusable containers in recycled pouches. Snacks are brought in cloth reusable bags from organic farms. Their pouches contain cloth napkins, utensils, and notes from home.

Children in preschool are aware of the island of plastic bottles in the ocean and the plight of the sea turtles.  Thanks to the media in all its forms, children today have seen oceans aflame in the Gulf of Mexico and sea turtles choking on plastic bags. In response, I am witnessing a resolve among parents to create a new normalcy for their children that is more conscious of their responsibilities to their planet, their community, and each other.

No longer able to take open spaces and limitless oceans as birthrights, parents are instilling stewardship in these generations that’s evident in their lunch boxes and the impact will only be positive for our community and the environment that sustains us.
Kristin Sherman is an educator and Co-Director of The New School-West preschool, which is located in Venice, California.


Comments (2)

  1. Avatar for LA Stormwater
    Sherri Akers
    March 17th, 2011 at 9:03 am

    We had the kids as our guests at the MVCC Green Booth last year and they displayed the posters they had made. It is so encouraging to see how much they care – and how much they inspire others! Thank you to Kristin and her team for nurturing these young eco warriors!

    • Avatar for LA Stormwater
      LA Stormwater
      March 17th, 2011 at 11:33 am

      Hi Sherri, thank you for sharing how these young eco warriors have encouraged you! We agree that they truly are an inspiration to us all and appreciate educators like Kristin who embrace the young generation’s affinity for change and the environment!

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