Are we ready to learn from our kids?
I will never forget this story a parent sent in:
“I have a three-year-old and since we began composting at home, she also participates and gets very excited to put bits of organic waste into her Nano Kambha. Composting has become part of her world. Recently we went on a train trip and the other folks in the compartment handed her a banana to eat. She enjoyed the treat and then very worriedly looked at me saying, “Appa, what should I do, we didn’t bring our Kambha?”
It’s the eyes – and then the whole body that is animated and reflects back all the wonder, the awe and the relish of understanding that is the most delightful part of working with young kids.
What is it about the upturned faces, wide eyes, bobbing heads and awkwardly nimble fingers that feels so perfect? You just have to watch them as they busily sieve compost and loudly exclaim at every bug or worm that appears. Not disgusted, not worried and game for anything. The parents or teachers accompanying them are not always so enthralled!
Older kids demand a wider canvas, if we are able to show them how this relooking at nature is connected to their current lives and how that sits in their potential future, then we have them hooked. Urban young adults are already tuned in to the political overtones that surround sustainability and are seeking authentic pathways to negotiate the conflicting demands of self-image, world and purpose.
Why do we enjoy working with kids?
Of course, the premise is if the young “KNOW”, they will grow to be better earth stewards of tomorrow, so it follows that we should work with them as it aligns to our mission.
Folks have pointed out that kids of today are our potential customers tomorrow.
Our workshops, stories, books, rabbit hole projects on curriculum all of these, have never been a business imperative ––our real reason is to help build a love for nature in them since the competing demand on their mind space is from the everything else in our busy urban lives.
'Give children a chance to love the earth before we ask them to save it', David Sobel says. We can’t agree more.
We coined the word Plus Nature +nature to describe this lens that we urge kids to bring into their lives. We say, in the future we need lawyers – but what would a lawyer be if she was a +nature lawyer? What about future Doctors or Investment Bankers – but what will change in these ways of working if you add +nature?
In all our workshops we can see that kids who can make a little space in their hearts for nature, connect more with stories on the “why” we need to let Nature in! If we don’t have that, then the why’s and how’s and what’s slide off their otherwise engaged attention spans. We have not connected.
What we have learnt working with kids
👉🏼 They believe you wholeheartedly till suddenly they do not believe you. You can see this as they grow. So, we find that they need evidence or a pointing to examples that show that this +nature lens is as important as the technology lens or the entertainment lens or the purpose lens to participate as adults in this the world.
👉🏼 If these examples are not robust or exciting, they will erode the attention and the value kids have for +nature. For example, how many visible Computer geeks do you know who fall in the +nature variety? How many such stories do we have for kids and adults that talk about a profession as + nature professions in our Indian context?
👉🏼 Having real life mini projects helps them cement this within their own personalities and desires. Just one-of workshops are not enough, engaging them in ways that is orthogonal to their environment textbooks is critical to make this stick.
After a 3-month program a 12-year-old tech savvy kid when asked how his relationship with nature had changed if at all, said “I think my relationship with nature is a like a bad internet connection, it’s still buffering!”
In the light of COVID making this connect with nature will be even harder to do. While nature re-generates, our desire to take care of it decreases with the increase in time spent indoors or in front of screens.
I was talking to Kiran Bir Sethi of Riverside School and Design for Change on what COVID will mean to this +nature connect. She shared how her teacher colleagues were all working to find ways to get kids to move away from screen, do physical tasks and connect with the life outside in nature. “What memories of this time will our kids have in 2021? Will they be memorable and full of new possibilities?”
And composting is one such activity that allows kids to revisit their relationship with nature in their homes, in this time of high screen contact.
So, while selling the composting story is our day job - we work with kids for ourselves, to keep our love for nature alive. There is no better way to do this than surrounding ourselves with young folks, in different situations, in a park, in our office, in their classrooms, on the street!
We enjoy it and while there are more talented people doing the same thing in different parts of the world, we have to do this to keep our true north as an endeavor celebrating the circles of life.
After all, in our work we are also daily negotiating the conflicting demands of work, heart and purpose. We ask ourselves – “Why are we doing this and why are we doing this in this way and not that “sensible and logical” way?
Daily Dump has a range of material that you can use in your work with kids – we also conduct workshops and are happy to get kids to begin with composting to see how nature works in closed loops. Reach out to us in case you want to organize a webinar for your communities kids.
Never tried composting at home? See how simple it is!
Happy Children's Day!
Poonam Bir Kasturi
Bangalore, Nov 2020