Environmental Responsibility at School
Environmental Responsibility at School *
by Hadas Yellinek, Coordinator of the Community and Nature Program at Teva Ivri
* Hebrew Version Produced by Teva Ivri – Jewish Nature
English Translation Courtesy of Jewish Agency for Israel – Partnership2Gether
Target Population: Elementary School
Noah lived in a period in which he was required to assume responsibility, listen to the voice of God and save the various species. Each of us should assume Noah’s role. Each of us is responsible for the environment in which he lives. In this lesson, we will learn about man’s responsibility for the world’s existence and how each of us can reduce our negative impact on the environment at school.
Part 1 – We’re All in the Same Boat – Story and Discussion
The teacher will open with the following story based on the Midrash in Vayikra Raba 4:
This is a tale of a group of people sitting on a ship. One of them took a drill and started drilling a hole in the bottom of the ship. His friends said to him: “What are you doing?” He said to them: “What does it matter to you! I’m only drilling under where I’m sitting.” They said to him: ‘The water is rising and flooding us all. We are all in the same boat!”
Comment: You can ‘add’ color to the story and lengthen the text and add descriptions. It can also be dramatized together with the students. The ship represents the planet Earth. The group of people represents all inhabitants of the Earth. The moment I understand that my actions have an impact on the entire world, my behavior will change.
Part 2 – You and I Will Change the World – Group Activity
The teacher will divide the class into 4 groups. Each group will discuss one of the following topics (2 groups will discuss each subject). Afterward, each smaller group will present its conclusions to the entire class.
The Way to School
Conduct a Class Survey – How do you get to school?
By public transportation
My parents drive me to school
Points for discussion and activity
· What are the environmental consequences of driving one’s car rather than taking public transportation?
· What is better for the environment? Parents dropping the student off? Traveling by bus, bike, or walking? Which is healthier?
· How can we influence more students to get to school using healthy and environmentally friendly ways?
Trash at School
It is recommended to run this activity during the lesson that follows the morning recess.
Check the classroom trash can and fill in the attached table:
Type of Trash
Quantity (A lot, average, small amount)
There is a recycling can at school or in the area
Organic waste (leftover food)
Plastic (bags, bottles)
Points for Discussion and Activity
· What is the source of the trash in the can?
· What could be reduced and how? (For example, reusable food boxes instead of bags, recycling paper instead of throwing into the can…)
· Which trash can be recycled at school?
· How can you encourage classmates to recycle?
To expand upon the subject: Study about the time span it takes for materials to decompose, how compost is made, and what happens to trash in the landfill.
Part 3: Who Knows Noah – A Call to Action
Do you know the story of Noah?
The teacher will tell the story of Noah in brief and will ask the children – “What is the connection between Noah and the process we learned about today?” “If Noah was alive today, what issues would he be required to deal with?”
Now after we understand the consequences of our various actions, there is a need to adopt responsible behavior for our world, our resources and the coming generations.
Teacher: There is an opportunity to leverage the activity into an annual project that the class will lead.
Now hold a vote regarding which subject the class wishes to focus on – and make a change.
The change can be for an individual class experience or for the entire school.
Select a committee to promote this subject, which will approach the principal, parents’ committee, etc. in order to involve the school’s decision makers in the process.
Appendix – Walking Together to School
In the not too distant past, walking was the common way of getting to school. Today, fewer and fewer children come to school on foot and they increasingly choose to travel to school by private car. This behavior has implications in many spheres – health, road safety, environmental protection, community life and quality of life in general. Walking to school contributes to the student’s health and welfare and improves the quality of life in the residential neighborhood, in the following ways:
Improves Health and Physical Fitness and Reduces the Risk of Chronic Diseases
Many studies have found evidence regarding the significant contribution of physical activity in preventing disease and promoting health. Among other things, physical activity helps prevent obesity, which is a global epidemic with far reaching health implications, primarily in children. Regular physical activity, such as walking to school on a regular basis, contributes to maintaining proper weight and protecting the health of the cardiovascular system and other body systems as well.
Adopting Physical Activity Practices During Leisure Time
As opposed to competitive sports, every student can enjoy and benefit from walking, because walking does not require athletic ability and it appeals to a wider range of students. Studies have found evidence that children who come to school on foot tend to take part in more physical activity in their leisure time. This is particularly significant in our time, in light of the spread of the sedentary behavior among children.
Increasing Pedestrian Safety in the School Vicinity
There is a good reason that pedestrians and cyclists in Israel are known as ‘vulnerable road users’. It is because they make up over two-thirds of all victims and fatalities in road accidents. In this regard, many studies indicate that the larger the number of pedestrians in a given place, the smaller the chances of them getting hurt in a road accident. Traffic hazards near the school are related to the large number of private vehicles that drive to the school in a short span of time. In most cases, the school vicinity is not prepared for the intake of the incoming vehicles, the children who are dropped off or parking spaces for this large number of vehicles. Therefore, encouraging walking instead of coming to school by private car will contribute to the safety of the school vicinity.
Improving Air Quality
The many vehicles starting up their engines and driving very slowly near the school, emit increased air pollutants. Driving a distance of 1 kilometer by car emits a half of a kilogram of pollutants from the vehicle (the amount of pollutants emitted when starting the engine is greater). Children are more vulnerable to the air emitted from vehicles because they are shorter. Replacing these car rides with walking to school will reduce the environmental hazards caused due to the traffic jams during peak hours at the school.
Conserving Energy and Returning the Urban Space to Pedestrians
In the short run, less cars arriving at the school’s vicinity each morning will reduce the burden and the traffic jams and allow for a great savings in energy. In the long run, the transition from transportation by car to walking to school will return the municipal space to pedestrians and protect open public areas.
Empowering the Student and Developing Social Relationships
Walking to school contributes to the development of social relationships, helps develop independence and improves self-image. Studies indicate that walking to school is a habit that creates and fosters social relationships, and the chances that the student will walk to school increases if other students are also walking. These findings stress the importance of organized walking groups which encourage walking to school.
The project encourages daily walking to and from school, with the cooperation of parents and people in the community. In participating countries, the activity begins at the start of the school year and includes a variety of lessons, such as integrating walking in subjects such as geography, arithmetic, art, social studies, mapping walking routes near the school and organizing walking groups.