Elementary School Principal's Blog

Small Actions, Big Steps

Posted on January 21, 2023

by Dr. Edna Hussey on January 21, 2023

Grappling with environmental issues -- climate change, global pollution, depletion of natural resources, for example -- is daunting, and it can be very easy to become paralyzed by the sheer breadth and complexity of these global threats to humankind. Our children are exposed (as they should) to the media coverage about climate upheaval and in some cases, see it for themselves when they travel. Living on an island like ours masks the environmental issues, until we experience breathing issues from the vog or we take a closer view of the trash pollution on beaches, hiking trails, and along city streets. Educators -- teachers and parents -- can lay the groundwork in the classroom and at home by fostering an awareness of how everyday actions can harm or help the world.

Last week in the late afternoon, a small group of students in the afterschool care program came into my office to talk with me, papers in hand and fired up! They had something to share. Their words and emotions tumbled out about how the collective "we" needed to do something because the world was dying, the trees were all being cut down, temperatures and coastal waters rising. They clearly had read about and discussed the problems, and whatever they discusssed in the classroom continued well into afterschool care. They had drawn some images related to the causes and effects of environmental changes and agreed among themselves that their drawings could be hung up around the campus to raise everyoneʻs awareness. When students are passionate about ideas and actions, I listen, because in that moment of their persuasion when the existential need to act is provoked -- is the learning we hope our students experience and becomes the fabric of their being.

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I encouraged them to enlarge their sketches and drafts and make it visually appealing. The very next day, the students returned in the afternoon with lots of posters in hand. They had apparently enlisted other students in the afterschool program to design more posters! The trio came to me with another idea. Can we go to each classroom and talk about these environmental problems and ask the teacher permission to put up our posters? I responded with a challenge. Would you consider presenting your message at the end of chapel next week? Iʻll ask Kahu if he could share a few minutes with you at chapel (to which Kahu did agree).

The next afternoon, the three students stopped into my office with their scripts, which their teacher helped them to write. I read their drafts, which provided some concrete actions their audience of students and faculty might consider. Put your trash in trash bins. Turn off your car engine instead of letting the car idle. Turn off the water faucet instead of letting it run when washing your hands or brushing your teeth. The morning of the chapels, they appeared again in my office, this time frantic! One of their group decided not to speak at chapel but approved his replacement. Before the second bell, the students were affixing posters to strategic areas on campus and at eye level for younger students. The students delivered their message with sincerity and confidence.

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Mission accomplished? I think mission just launched. Elementary students may want to stop environmental changes, but they donʻt see these changes daily. So they may have difficulty remembering consistently that their actions, such as disposing their trash or turning off running water, can actually affect environmental change. Thereʻs real math here and the potential of real impact. Imagine every person (billions!) everywhere around the globe implementing daily these two actions. I hope that these three studentsʻ heightened awareness will prod them to deepen their understanding about the interconnectedness of the environment.

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Offering students opportunities to take action can help significantly in shaping a disposition for being able to see the interconnectedness of the environment, the impact of human behavior, and environmental causality. If we look back at Mid-Pacificʻs Learner Profile for students, we can see some of the Learner Profile traits visible in the actions undertaken by the three students who acted independently without teacher prodding, so passionate about the need to raise awareness. Seize those opportunities with your children when their passions for a good cause can launch their development into becoming global citizens.

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E Kūlia Kākou! Letʻs strive and aspire together!

For our children,

Edna L. Hussey, Ed.D.

Principal