Christmas time with thoughts of turkey dinners and Christmas presents rarely provides an opportunity for us to think of the environment but in these two activities, we can get children thinking about the other cost of Christmas and maybe think about how they can do something about it.
Activity One: A Christmas Present for the World
Suitable for: Year 3 to Year 6
- Understand how we can receive the gift of the future through giving back to the world
- To be able to decide on appropriate presents
Christmas is a time for giving and receiving gifts and in recent years, gifts to poor people in other parts of the world have become popular; chickens for a family in Mali; solar lamps for schools in Kenya or tents for refugees in Syria.
Many schools take part in the annual shoe box appeal, providing fun and practical gifts for deserving children and families around the world. This year though, try to get your pupils to think a little differently about such charitable gifts.
We give gifts to people who love us and care for us, who gives us homes and food and love and it’s possible to think of our planet as a metaphor for such a person. The planet gives us food, somewhere to live, and so why not give the planet a present?
As a class, decide what the earth might want as a Christmas present. Perhaps make up a Christmas list to send to Santa on behalf of the earth. The key here is not to think about things that people on earth may want but what the planet itself might want or need. Ideas might include more trees, cleaner beaches or countryside, safer habitats for animals.
Now ask the class how they can get the Christmas present the planet may want. Consider planting trees or scattering wild flower seeds, volunteering to clean up or renovate an area of their town or village, doing a beach clean and then buying more bins for the beach or running a recycling scheme in school.
Activity Two: The Environmental Cost of Christmas
Suitable for: Year 2 to Year 6
- To understand the impact that Christmas has on the environment
- To be able to suggest ways in which we can reduce the impact of Christmas on the environment
Talk to the children about what is bought at Christmas – obvious things are presents and food but less obvious things might be trees, decorations and more.
Between the class, see if you can arrive at a financial cost for what is bought at Christmas but then ask the class to think of the environmental cost. You can do this by working out the carbon footprint of the food that is bought and the toys and other gifts as they are transported to their home. Can they think of a way to reduce the footprint?
Now ask them to think about the packaging of food and gifts, including gift wrap which is not recyclable and how that could be substituted. Also whether it might be more environmentally friendly to send an electronic card than a normal one.
Consider whether it’s better to have a real living Christmas tree they can replant, a cut Christmas tree or an artificial one. How much carbon is produced to power our Christmas lights or the TV that is invariably turned on?
Ask them now to write some sentences or draw a labelled diagram to show how they could have a ‘reduced carbon’ Christmas that would help the environment.