Educating young environmentalists

March 5, 2024

How does plastic get into the ocean? How is paper recycled? What happens to cans in the recycling bin? If you have little people in your life, then you know that children are forever asking how and why things are the way they are. You also know that an internet search does not always provide answers in a format that is entertaining and understandable to six- to nine-year-olds. However, that is exactly what Jess French does in her book What a Waste (DK Publishing, 72 pages).

While “waste” is in the title and dealing with it is the primary focus, this book touches on all aspects of our impact on the environment, from pollution and energy use to resource depletion, habitat loss, and species extinction. There is even a section on trash in the Earth’s orbit.

For each environmental topic, the author describes the current situation and the systems we have put in place to deal with that situation. She also offers the reader examples of actions they can take to help improve the environment and protect the planet. Furthermore, the book offers concrete ways a young person can become a leader and influencer within their home, school, and community.

French is both a veterinarian and an author, but she is perhaps best known for a 2014 British television program called Minibeast Adventure With Jess, where she led small children in encounters with small creatures. There are a few episodes on YouTube.

“My strongest and best memories are of going to the woods at the weekend,” says French. “Me and my dad… would rip up old logs, lift up stones, dig up soil, and we always used to find loads of different, cool stuff.”

Her childlike enthusiasm and curiosity transfer to this project, making What a Waste the perfect book for early elementary students who want to know the “how and why” of the environment.