Young Children and the Environment: Early Education for Sustainability

We live in a world with a growing population of more than 7.5 billion. The environmental impacts of such a burden on the planet are visible and palpable, whether politicians choose to believe it or not. If the children are our future, then we must prepare them with the knowledge and skills to ensure that the earth can sustain that future. Inspired by that belief, International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP)—the only international elementary & early years school in HCMC to have the prestigious accreditation from the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), are working hard to provide students with a holistic education and the necessary skills.

What is Sustainability?
Put simply, sustainability is “the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance” (Oxford dictionary). Practically, it means taking action to avoid further destruction to the environment while simultaneously repairing the damage already done. In Saigon, where approximately 9,200 tons of solid waste is discarded daily, it can seem an insurmountable problem. However, it is important to remember that each person can do their part in small ways to collectively make a big change. As a part of school curriculum and after-school activities, ISSP is taking up the task of ensuring young students are both aware of the problem and have the skills and motivation to do their part.

How Can ISSP Teach Children About Sustainability?
Children are impressionable sponges, eager to learn and grow. They easily pick up and retain information and can form new habits in a short period of time. At this crucial stage of mental development and personal growth, children are the best candidates to teach about sustainability. At ISSP, teachers use several engaging, hands-on methods to help their students understand the importance of making changes, to ensure that this world is still habitable for generations to come.

Firstly, sustainability is submerged in the school lifestyle at ISSP. Movies, art, field trips, sports, daily food consuming, music, host country studies and a wide range of books are a readily available tool for teachers to impress upon children the impact of their consumption and how they can do their part to reduce their carbon footprint. A good example is Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Both the book and film show children what happens when resources are all used up, but give hope that one person can make a big difference.

Beside that, through student-led activities—an essential part of ISSP pedagogical direction, children naturally gain practical skills, such as recycling and composting, through interactive lessons, art & music performance and working in the sustainability gardens. These community activities encourage cooperation amongst peers, group dialogue and reflection. For a Strawless Ocean, Planet Plenty, Solar Buddy and Our Earth Festival are one of successful student-led activities of the school. Older students may be challenged to find more efficient and effective methods to clean up the world around them. With a sustainability garden—which is built by students, growing fruits, vegetables and flowers allows there help young learners to witness how long it takes the things they eat to grow and replenish. Children are given a more personal connection to their food and the ecosystems that are involved in the growth process. They see and experience first-hand how humans and the earth can work together to sustain life on the planet. Moreover, if they begin to understand how their carbon footprint in the city affects life outside of it and how important all living creatures are to the balance of the ecosystem, they will have more motivation to protect the environment.

ISSP believes we all have our part to play towards protecting the environment, to help repair the immense damage that has been done. With the right schooling and with continued practice at home, children will be able to take responsibility for their own carbon footprint. It is evident that the responsibility doesn’t stop with us adults, our children are in a better position to take control and to make a larger impact towards a brighter future.


Located in Saigon Pearl Complex, the International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) is a part of Cognita Schools Group, focuses on an American-style curriculum that is based on teaching core values such as honesty, caring, respect, responsibility and wisdom.

With students coming from over 26 countries, ISSP provides a truly international environment and strong community for all children. The multicultural environment and English immersion curriculum will help students achieve academic excellence as well as the skills that are necessary to become socially responsible global citizens. In 2018, more than 85% of students achieve above grade level English & Mathematics, compared to worldwide results in MAP testing.

Text and Images Provided by ISSP

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