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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.