One of the first things we teach children about God is that God is the creator of everything around us. One of the most accessible examples we use to talk about God’s presence in our world is the beauty of creation: the splendor of a sunset, the repetitive motion of ocean waves, the diversity of animals and plant life, the intricacy of the human body. Creation is one of the most tangible ways that we teach children about God. How often do we take that connection a step further and teach children to be stewards of God’s gift of creation?
Care for creation is one of the seven themes of Catholic social teaching. Our lives and the lives of future generations depend on the resources of the earth which are entrusted to our care. To go about one’s day blind to the precious resources we are wasting is the same as saying to Jesus, “When did we see you hungry and not feed you?” We can teach our children that taking care of creation is an essential part of loving their neighbor and living the Gospel.
Here are some ways to teach and practice care for creation:
- Practice sustainability in your classroom. For example, use both sides of paper before recycling; e-mail parents instead of sending paper announcements home; save large scraps of construction paper to use for other projects; refrain from making unnecessary copies by having students work in pairs or use individual marker boards; turn off the lights if your classroom has enough natural light from the windows; turn off and unplug all electronics when you leave.
- Have students create and hang posters in the bathrooms and near water fountains, garbage cans, and recycling bins in the building to remind others not to let the water run, not to use too many paper towels, and to recycle.
- Go on a nature walk around your church grounds to praise God for the beauty of creation. Take along a trash bag for students to pick up any litter they come across.
- Encourage students to carpool to class and Mass with their neighbors.
- Host a used toy and clothing swap within your program or a donation drive to benefit local charities to encourage families to pass on gently used items rather than throwing them away.
- Research and show pictures of people around the world affected by pollution and climate change. Pray for these brothers and sisters.
- Hold a communal Reconciliation service to examine, confess, and repent from our sins against creation.
- Help the children write to local government officials, asking them to take action to protect nature in your area, especially if there are any current local issues.
- Have children illustrate the verses of Daniel 3:56‒82. Discuss how creation praises God simply by being.
- Learn about and take the St. Francis Pledge as a class, program, parish, or family.
Darcy, let’s be sure to re-post these ideas when Pope Francis sends out his anticipated encyclical on climate change/caring for God’s creation!