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Child drawing the earth

Environmentalism Grades 2 to 12

From the ETFO Podcast
Meagan Perry

In Episode 11 of Season 2 of Elementary: A Podcast from the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, a panel of three students talked about how their elementary education gave them the tools they need for their work to protect the planet. The podcast guests were Grade 6 student Gweneth Arumainayagam, Grade 8 student Prassan Aggarwal and Grade 12 student Hannah Kohler. You can listen to the full episode of Elementary: A Podcast from ETFO on most podcast apps or at The interview below has been edited and condensed.

ELEMENTARY: How did you get involved in environmental issues?

GWENETH: I was part of the Acorn Club, which is basically an eco club for Primary students at my school. My teacher really inspired me. She was very passionate about the environment, especially plastic in animals. That’s where my passion started.

PRASSAN: For me, it all started in Grade 5, when our teacher taught us a very inspiring lesson and showed us a documentary about helping the environment and the urgency to protect the Earth against climate change and how we’re the last generation that can really make an impact.

HANNAH: I had a really amazing teacher in Grade 5. She introduced me to a whole bunch of different environmental concepts and different issues. And she really encouraged me to get involved with our eco club.

ELEMENTARY: What was it like when you first started to get involved in environmental activism?

GWENETH: We went out in the schoolyard and picked up garbage. But our school also did something called the Big Pull, where we went out into the forest behind our school and pulled out garlic mustard, which is an invasive plant. So that’s how I got started, but I am a very busy person and convincing my parents to help me was kind of hard. I said there’s only one chance to do this. I want to be able to grow up in an environment where it’s not garbage everywhere and the lakes are polluted. They supported me.

PRASSAN: It was really difficult because environmental activism and climate change is a really broad topic. I really started by joining clubs and at home, I started to change my lifestyle by saving energy using more active transportation. I created a little challenge in which students log how much active transportation they’re doing and I would calculate how much each class had saved up. Whichever class saved the most got a pizza party.

HANNAH: Elementary school really gave me the foundation to kind of propel the work I do today, volunteering with local environmental groups.

ELEMENTARY: What do you think the biggest issue is for students your age?

HANNAH: Everyone’s concerned but no one really knows how to start and talking about the environment is overwhelming. Eco-anxiety is a huge part of it. I’m really breaking it down for people. There are solutions. We can implement change. We just really need collective action.

PRASSAN: I hear a lot of people trying to participate more in the community and in eco clubs. They’re trying to change their lifestyle at home to conserve energy, to reduce their carbon footprint and their impact on the environment.

GWENETH: My friends go to eco club, but a lot of my class unfortunately doesn’t know how serious the situation is. We try to tell them and spread awareness. In my opinion, it would be really awful to live in a world that’s so polluted that all the animals have died because of pollution.

Meagan Perry is a member of ETFO executive staff.