Tzu Chi USA’s Environmental Character Education Nurtures the Future

National Headquarters  |  July 24, 2023
Guided by Tzu Chi environmental volunteers, students practice sorting recyclable items. Photo/Phil Huang

Written by Wendy Wang
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Patrick McShane

As the cascading effects of our changing climate become more frequent and destructive, boosting awareness for sustainable practices becomes ever-more pressing. In order to elevate Tzu Chi USA’s environmental protection philosophy, Kevin Chou, a Tzu Chi volunteer and educator, facilitated a partnership between the Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation’s Character Education Program and Shelyn Elementary School in Rowland Heights, Los Angeles, last December. 

Tzu Chi volunteers set up the classroom before the event in order to give the students the best experience possible. Photo/Phil Huang
Teachers share Jing Si Aphorisms from Dharma Master Cheng Yen that convey the importance of caring for the earth. Photo/Phil Huang

After sharing the concept of caring for the earth at the school’s Recycling Club last year, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Education Foundation’s Environmental Character Education returned to Shelyn Elementary School on May 23 to conduct a “Resource Recycling” themed environmental protection class for nearly 500 students from kindergarten to sixth grade in three sessions. During the sessions, teachers led the students in reflecting on the Jing Si Aphorism, “We are on the earth, it is our duty and mission to do our part for the earth,” inspiring care for the earth and all people.

Tzu Chi volunteer Kevin Chou, who teaches at Shelyn Elementary School, said that after the school established its Recycling Club, it has been hoping to invite Tzu Chi to share its environmental initiatives with the school and teach the students. He said, “In typical American classrooms, teachers mainly teach, but Tzu Chi volunteers lead students to recycle, leading children to take action and do their part to protect the environment.”

A teacher shows the students how Tzu Chi recycles and composts PET bottles and transforms them into warm blankets and clothes for disaster relief. Photo/Phil Huang

In addition to teaching the concept of environmental protection, students also learned about Tzu Chi’s process of recycling and composting PET bottles to transform them into warm blankets and clothes for disaster relief. They also learned how to make recycled paper so that students can understand the importance of recycling resources. Students and teachers were impressed after touching the scarf made from PET bottles using DA.AI Technology and wanted to learn more about resource recycling.

The Tzu Chi Character Education curriculum is designed with activities and songs that are lively and interactive. The students interact enthusiastically in the classroom. Photo/Phil Huang

Sarah Opatkiewicz, principal of Shelyn Elementary School, expressed that she was very impressed with the scarf made from PET bottles, sharing, “Tzu Chi transforms used plastic bottles into scarves, and the scarves are so warm that I have to take them with me when I travel to Iceland.” At the same time, she is eager to work with Tzu Chi again soon to continue the environmental education program: “I hope that the next program will teach students how to reduce the use of plastic and how to reuse things.”

Sarah Opatkiewicz, Principal of Shelyn Elementary School, speaks highly of Tzu Chi’s character education and looks forward to the next collaboration. Photo/Phil Huang

I think it’s important to take care of the earth, so I’m going to use eco-friendly water bottles, reduce the use of bottled water, and collect used drawing paper to make recycled paper.

The Tzu Chi Character Education curriculum is designed with activities and songs that are lively and interactive, so students not only gain the joy of participation as a team but also appreciate the meaning of environmental protection. Tzu Chi has nourished the spirit of environmental protection in the children’s hearts and inspired more students to put the lessons into practice.

More News Stories