How do you help children make sense of the environmental changes take place around them? 

To help, we asked CERES Student Environmental Leadership Coordinator, Tom Kelly. 

Tom will introduce our Kids’ Short Films + Seed Planting session, sensitively exploring issues such as pollution and waste, and will also lead our seed planting workshop for kids in the cinema courtyard!

Join us for this fun and education session at Palace Westgarth, 10.30am – 12pm Sunday 27 October, and our interview with Tom below for tips on how to involve kids the environmental conversation! 

Tom Kelly, Student Environmental Leadership Coordinator at CERES

What motivated you to take up an education role with CERES?

When I was at University studying Outdoor Education I did what CERES aims to support others to do, ‘fall in love with the Earth’. As a young person from Bendigo and studying in Ballarat I did not make contact with CERES until I made the big move to Melbourne, from there it was love at first sight. Now, by working in the education team at CERES I continue to facilitate that love through fun, exploration and getting a little bit dirty.

What can children expect to learn about the environment during their seed planting workshop with EFFA? 

Hopefully a young person, in planting a seed, will learn about the interconnectivity of all things, living and non-living, that we find on our amazing planet. They will explore what it is like to be a seed through a ‘yoga’ exercise, where we will discover through movement what it feels like to ‘grow as a plant’, and what is required to support growth. And like with all things fun and exploratory, they will probably get a bit wet and a bit dirty!

Are you surprised by children’s 'environmental literacy', and how do you avoid overloading or overwhelming them when teaching environmental sessions?

Young people surprise me every day. By giving them the opportunity to express themselves in a range of different ways they can share the amazing insights into everything going on around them. They have the most amazing lens of viewing the world and it makes everything so much more fun and exciting. 

That being said, sometimes the human induced threats we have created for our planet can be overwhelming. But it is through ensuring young people that while they may have to share the responsibility in making change, it is not something they should ever feel responsibility for creating. 

What are some typical questions or concerns children have when learning about the environment, and how do you normally address these?

The climate emergency is of biggest concern to young people, from kindergarten to tertiary education and beyond. People constantly question and fear inaction. Young people have every right to feel these emotions and it is through allowing a conversation, providing answers where possible and creating a sense of hope and empowerment that I attempt to address these concerns.

What are your top tips for parents when discussing the environment with primary school aged children?

Be open to having a conversation. Help facilitate finding the answer to their questions. Involve them in whatever you hope will help create change. Be a role model. Speak highly of the people who are doing great things. Make it fun! 

Apart from addressing environmental challenges, connecting children with the environment and nature around them is a positive part of their development. How does connecting with nature impact children's physical and emotional health?

Connecting with nature is an enate desire for any human. Not so long ago we had a much stronger affinity with our surrounds and we still yearn to be outside, to explore to have fun. Seeing trees makes us feel happy, hiking amongst giant gums more so. The physical and emotional benefits to health are endless and the opportunity to do this as a family and not only connect with nature but each other in nature couldn’t be better.