As you may have seen via various social media channels, on Friday 20th September, our children joined our local #Strike4Climate, and whilst we felt this was an incredibly beneficial experience for the children and one they thoroughly enjoyed, some may questions whether it was ‘appropriate’ or ‘responsible’ to take young children to this type of event.
Understanding the importance of looking after our environment and planet has always been of the utmost importance to us and something we introduced the children to from very early on; through practices that were supportive of the preservation of our planet and as a result they quickly developed a sense of responsibility and these practices have become a part of our everyday routines. Whether it be recycling, litter picking, foraging or cooking with our homegrown produce, these are small actions that go a long way in terms of sustainability, and in our opinion are fundamental life skills for children to develop from the outset.
This is why, when we mentioned the ‘Strike 4 Climate’ to the children and also spoke to the children about the process of striking and marching for a cause and asked them if they wanted to be involved, which was met with the response “Yes! We need to save our planet!” Which shows not only their existing awareness of their wider world and environment, and the sense of responsibility that they’d already developed by this point; this was not a new concept for them, but merely a means to using their voice on a topic that was already important to them.
It’s important to note that the children who were due to attend on the day of the strike were of an age and stage of development where they understood the basic concept of the strike and wanted to participate, we didn’t force them, they had the choice and they made that choice themselves, talking about how they would go about ‘saving the world’ and what they’d need to do.
Prior to mentioning the strike to the children, we explored the idea with the parents of the children who were due to attend on this day. It’s incredibly important to us that our parents and families are on board with any decisions we make and this one was no different; some parents may not have wanted their children to be privy to such an experience on such a large scale and so it was essential we discussed the entire process with our parents prior to bringing it to the children’s attention.
As it happens, our parents and families in this instance feel as strongly about the current climate crisis as we do, whilst also being huge advocates of children using their voices for the greater good.
Reflecting on the entire experience, here’s what Parent D had to say about his child’s involvement:
“We chose Pebbles because their values matched ours and caring about the environment is just one of many examples. They always consult parents and we have a choice about our child’s participation – there is no pressure. Pebbles promotes a love of the outdoors (my daughter loves beach school) and we would like her to grow up believing that not only does she have a responsibility to protect the environment as an individual, she also has a voice and can it can be used to make her world better for others. In fact, now the protest has happened, I am especially glad she is at Pebbles because, as a family that loves the great outdoors, she is already a greater ambassador for the environment than anyone else in the family. To exclude her from the potential for social change based on her age is to teach her that her view doesn’t matter. If we as parents engaged in such matters in our formative years, would we prioritise convenience and cost, without considering the environmental impact so readily? When my 3 year old prompts me to take a flask rather than buy a drink, I realise my guilty answer. The protest is something we have spoken about at home and she gets excited about it because the environment is something she cares about. It teaches her to care about ideas and ideals beyond the people close to her and in doing so, broadens her understanding of the world. We want our daughter to have passion, a sense of social responsibility and the confidence to make things happen. That’s what her role models have at Pebbles so we wouldn’t want her to be anywhere else.”
With parental support obtained, we set up about preparing for the upcoming event. We shared a few clips of previous strikes with the children and they decided that they wanted to make ‘posters’ and learn ‘a song’ like the people in the video, and so we did exactly that, preparing placards and learning a chant to march along to.
In the weeks leading up to the event, the children had been engaging in a significant amount of ‘superhero play’ and so when the morning of the strike arrived they asked to choose a superhero outfit to wear to the strike because, quite simply “Superheroes save the planet.”
The children chose which placard they wanted to hold and we off we went merrily marching and chanting our way to the Town Hall to join the hundreds of people already congregated.
We were naturally mindful that the sheer volume of people and the hustle and bustle may be overwhelming for the children and so initially started on the outskirts of the group, but the children quickly decided they wanted a spot on the Town Hall steps in order to listen to the Mayor’s speech which the children interpreted as being ‘because she might save our planet, Worthing.’
As the congregation began to march, we again asked if the children wanted to go along too and the children were keen to, holding their placards with pride s they marched, sang and generally immersing themselves in the atmosphere of the event.
In summary, our main reason for attending this potentially controversial event, with the children in tow was to stress to our children that they have a voice; that they can be heard and there are different ways in which you can convey a message and fight for what you believe in.
That is the biggest take away from the entire event for those children; their belief in the message they were conveying, and ultimately that they had a platform to use their voices on.
As practitioners in this current social climate, this is what we should endeavour to provide for children throughout our practice and provision; a platform from which to use their voices upon, to express and act upon their beliefs, whilst feeling listened to and respected, regardless of the message they try to convey.