Jamaica’s Kids Climate Camp plants seeds of awareness

There is a perception that younger children cannot grasp climate change issues. It’s too complicated. So, at least in Jamaica, education on climate change only begins with high school students, who are studying science (and I am honestly not sure how much the topic is a part of the curriculum). All of this needs to change.

So, kudos to the Climate Change Division (CCD) at the Ministry of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, who took the bold step this summer of organizing Kids Climate Camp ’21 – hopefully the first of many – from August 9 to 19, 2021. The Camp aimed at planting and nurturing the seeds of climate awareness among Jamaican young children aged six to fourteen years. The CCD did not under-estimate the children’s intuition and awareness. See some of their artistic efforts below…

To my mind, you cannot start early enough. Those seeds will grow.

Indeed, worldwide climate change campaigners seem to be getting younger and younger – perhaps inspired initially by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who will be 19 on her next birthday. Greta has a following of over 12 million on Instagram. The younger campaigners, from every continent, are very active on social media – and out there on the streets.

Climate camper Joel Hamilton is fascinated with the elevated readings of the thermometer under an inverted fish bowl during an experiment to simulate the Green House Effect. (Photo: CCD)

The CCD’s Kimone Thompson guided the Jamaican Kids Climate Camp, and reports that besides the learning, it was actually fun for all concerned. And that’s important too. The camp was sponsored by the JN Foundation, which procured most of the art and craft supplies; the Forestry Department, which offered the use of their training facility; and Wisynco (who provided bottled water, and I trust the bottles were recycled).

Climate campers (from left) Monifa Walker, Joelle Hamilton and Chloe Campbell take a look at seeds outside the Forestry Department’s cold storage facility for seeds. (Photo: CCD)

The Jamaica National (JN) Foundation has its own Water Project (a critical climate change concern) – a private sector project focusing on water efficiency and availability, and so delivered lessons on that topic. The Forestry Department delivered the tree-related material.

Starting with twelve children on the first day, the Camp had doubled in size by the end of the second week. The program, running for four hours per day, addressed the Difference between Climate and Weather; Definition of Climate Change; The Greenhouse Effect; Role of Temperature in Climate Change; Role of Trees in Climate Change; Composition of Earth’s Surface; Naming/Identification of Continents and Oceans; Role of and Impact on Water; Reducing, Reusing, Recycling; and more.

It sounds like heavy stuff, but of course it was all adapted for the children so that they understood the basic concepts through a range of activities. They painted and colored; they pursued craft projects; they solved puzzles and word games; they participated in interactive mini-lectures; they planted trees; they went on scavenger hunt; and more. Videos, songs, and other audio-visual materials played an important role.

An ice-melting experiment! Yes, it was hot and windy, but it eventually had the desired effect! (Photo: CCD)

The CCD considers public awareness and outreach – to all levels of Jamaican society – is critical. Activities like the Kids Camp tie in with elements of the UNFCCC’s Doha work programme on Action for Climate Empowerment – the goal of which is to empower all members of society to engage in climate action through education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation on these issues.

Young people cannot sit on the sidelines and wait for older ones to make decisions for them. It is their future on this Planet. They must understand and participate in the transition to a low-emission, climate-resilient world, says the CCD, and I could not agree more.

To quote Greta, who is on the verge of adulthood herself, now:

“I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.”

Campers are busy painting their interpretations of climate change effects on Earth. In the foreground, Joelle Hamilton sketches her idea before adding paint to the canvas. (Photo: CCD)

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