Jen's MEM Journey

Child’s Play
by Jennifer Weiss -- October 2nd, 2011

Sometimes it is better to just pretend I’m a kid …

“Hey Mom, look at that cloud!  It looks like an elephant!”

“Yes,” I thought to myself, “it does look like an elephant.  It is also a cumulus cloud that helps to cool the earth’s surface temperature because of its albedo and ability to reflect the sun’s solar radiation.  Of course, it does also absorb some of the earth’s infrared radiation and reflect it back to earth, which has a warming effect, but overall that particular type of cloud has a cooling effect on the earth’s climate system.  Now, if that were a cirrus cloud ….”

Wait, hold on a minute.  With all due respect to Professor Li and her Climate Systems class, that is probably a bit more information than my 6 year old daughter needed.

So what I ACTUALLY said was, “Yes, honey.  It does look like an elephant!  And that one over there looks like a monkey.”

Phew, disaster (and glazed look) averted.

You see, ever since coming to the Nicholas school, I find myself constantly using my newfound knowledge to educate my children.  And since environmental education for elementary school children is the focus of my master’s project, this is a good thing.  Most of the time.

But, every once in a while I have to stop myself.  Do they really need a lesson in environmental issues at this time or do they just want to look at the clouds?  It becomes a balancing act between being a fun mom and teaching them to be environmental stewards.  It is sometimes a difficult line to walk.

Last week at the dinner table, my daughter asked “Mom, what is a carbon footprint?”

My eyes lit up, my heart swelled with pride and a million things rushed through my head as I thought about how to answer her.  Finally, she’s asking the questions that I want every human to think about – right here at the dinner table!

But, before I answered, I asked her a question.  “What makes you ask that, honey?  Where did you hear about a carbon footprint?”

Turns out in was in a Phineas and Ferb episode (and quite an entertaining one I might add).  The evil Doofensmirtzz builds a device to increase his carbon footprint (because it “sounds evil”), but his idea of doing it involves using a large foot made of carbon paper.  Hmmm, we should be so lucky.

Even though my enthusiasm was squashed a bit, I still managed to do a little bit of carbon footprint education.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as entertaining as Phineas and Ferb would have presented it.

But, I am not deterred.  There is a time and place for environmental education for children.  I just need to find the right times.  In the meantime, I’m going to go look at those earth-cooling clouds ….. is that a bunny I see??

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