What Kids can do to Help Save the Planet

As its new report reveals a “catastrophic decline” in the natural world, the WWF and Sir David Attenborough say change is needed and kids can help. Saving the planet and everything that lives on it is more important to children than anyone, because they’ll have to live with any losses much longer than their parents.

With that in mind, the World Wildlife Fund ( (WWF), which has just published its flagship Living Planet Report revealing nature is being destroyed by humans at a rate never seen before, has issued separate information to help children and young people understand what they can do to help stop this “catastrophic decline” – which includes, for example, African elephant populations in the Central African Republic declining by up to 98%.

The Living Planet Index, which tracks what’s happening in around 21,000 groups of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, shows wildlife populations around the world have, on average, declined by 68% since 1970, and the trend isn’t slowing down.

WWF ambassador Sir David Attenborough says the world needs to alter its perspective on nature, pointing out there has to be: “A change from viewing nature as something that’s optional or ‘nice to have’ to the single greatest ally we have in restoring balance to our world.”

The WWF says intensive agriculture, deforestation and the conversion of wild spaces into farmland are among the main causes of nature loss, while overfishing is “wreaking havoc” with marine life.

It says 75% of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has been significantly altered, most of the oceans are polluted, and 90% of wetland area has been lost. This destruction of ecosystems has led to a million species (500,000 animals and plants, and 500,000 insects) being threatened with extinction over the next 100 years.

The conservation charity says many of these extinctions are preventable, but warns that without urgent global action, life on Earth will be pushed to the brink, stressing: “Saving the environment is vital if we want to save ourselves.”

Matt Larsen-Daw, education manager at WWF-UK, says: “Young people will face a future very different from today’s world, and will be living with the consequences of decisions made by previous generations. It’s essential they understand environmental issues, so they’re equipped to make the best choices for the future of people and the planet.

“As the Living Planet Report 2020 launches, we’ve condensed the findings to communicate the science specifically to younger audiences. Young people will be one of the strongest forces behind real-world change for the planet.”

Here’s what WWF says young people can do to help save the planet…

1. Rethink the way you eat

About a third of the food produced around the world is never eaten – it might be wasted at the point it’s produced, or during transportation, packaging and sale. WWF says food waste is responsible for roughly 8% of global greenhouse gases, so it’s one of the biggest problems to tackle in the fight against the climate and nature crisis.

To do this, says Larsen-Daw, the type of food, and the way food is produced, needs transforming, so it’s more environmentally-friendly. That means farming that uses less space (so wildlife habitats aren’t destroyed), less water and fewer chemicals that harm the environment.

Try at home: “An easy place to start is to try eating and cooking with more plant-based foods, sourcing local produce and choosing food that hasn’t been produced in a way that causes deforestation,” suggests Larsen-Daw.

The WWF says the free mobile app Giki ( provides ethical and sustainability information on more than 250,000 products, including whether the packaging is recyclable and if ingredients, including palm oil, are responsibly sourced.

2. Use your voice to tackle deforestation

“In the time it takes to say ‘deforestation’, another chunk of forest the size of a football pitch is destroyed. That’s every two seconds, every single day,” says Larsen-Daw.

The main cause of this deforestation is food production, he says, including the food we eat in the UK. “The truth is, most people simply don’t realise the food we eat can be causing deforestation,” he points out. “If we’re going to change things, first we need everyone to know about the problem.”

Try at home: Talk to your family, friends, teachers and even your local MP to make sure everyone knows about the issue and that it matters. Find out more about deforestation, the root causes and what you can do to help by reading ‘5 Things You Can Do To Help The Amazon Rainforest‘ on the WWF’s website.

3. Help restore biodiversity

There’s a huge variety of plant and animal life on Earth and this biodiversity is vital for a healthy planet, says the WWF, as we rely on living things for clean air, fresh water and the conditions needed to grow food.

There are plenty of ways to support biodiversity while helping to slow climate change and protect people and wildlife from its effects, it says. For example, carefully choosing places to plant more forests can improve landscapes and soil quality, and capture carbon dioxide to help fight climate change. In towns and cities, trees improve air quality, prevent floods and keep residential areas cool.

Try at home: Learn about the nature around you, how different species benefit the environment and how you can help them. Make small changes in your garden and local communities to welcome wildlife – plant native flowers, build a variety of habitats to attract insects, birds, mammals and reptiles, and let things grow wild.

4. Measure your environmental footprint

Our current lifestyles – including the way we eat and travel – mean we need 1.6 times more resources than our planet can generate. When we add up everyone’s environmental footprint, it’s too big for the planet to support forever. If we can lower the amount of resources that each of us use, our overall impact can start to go down.

Try at home: Start by measuring your own environmental footprint with the WWF’s online calculator ( – it may give you tips you’ve never thought about before. Then, get family and friends to measure their footprints too. Once you know your environmental footprint, it will be easier to find the things you can change at home.

5. Pass on single-use plastic

Single-use plastics have infiltrated our natural world and even our diets. Around eight million tonnes of plastic are thought to end up in our oceans every year, causing serious harm to wildlife.

Try at home: Make sure you have a reusable bag with you when you go to a shop and try to find loose fruit and vegetables where possible that aren’t wrapped in plastic. If you spot a brand or supermarket continuing to use lots of single-use plastic, call them out.

How to Talk to your Children about Racism and While Privilege

talk to kids about racism

As protests continue around the world, Lauren Taylor finds out how parents can ensure their children understand what's happening.

George Floyd’s death in police custody and the subsequent protests across the world for the Black Lives Matter movement, has catapulted racism to the forefront of social consciousness.

It’s long overdue, but the outcry has forced many white people to consider and better understand systemic racism, take an honest (sometimes uncomfortable) look at white privilege, and question how they can be a better ally to black people.

For parents, there’s an added responsibility to teach children about what’s going on in the world right now and to raise kids to be racially-conscious. After all, racism and an ignorance of racial issues is a learned behaviour, and parents are the people best placed to influence their children’s understanding and ability to contribute to positive change.

But if it isn’t a topic that’s been addressed in your household before, where should you start?

talk to kids about racism

Ensure they know the wider context

Sadly school history classes don’t always cover it. “Teach them about the history of racial oppression and how racism is bigger than people having stereotypes or prejudices-it is about a system of power and is built into our laws, institutions, policies, and so forth,” says Margaret Hagerman, a professor in sociology at Mississippi State University and author of White Kids: Growing Up With Privilege in a Racially Divided America.

“This might mean parents need to do some learning in this area, and families can do this learning together.”

talk to kids about racism

Don’t teach them to ‘ignore differences’

One rhetoric you might hear is someone saying they ‘don’t see colour’ – while this might be well meaning, it actually contributes to racial bias. “Teach them how race matters in society and that being ‘colour blind’ ignores this reality,” says Hagerman.

Young children tend to be aware of visible differences between themselves and their friends, but don’t naturally discriminate – so use this in a positive way to impart anti-racist values early.

“Equality is not about pretending we don’t notice differences, but instead being aware that our differences can create barriers and working to overcome these,” says Jake Higgin, an education worker at Show Racism the Red Card (

The charity works in schools and has developed a ‘home school activity worksheet’ available on their website (£20), parents can use at home. The ‘three faces’ activity asks children to look at young people with different appearances, and guess their name, nationality and religion – leading to a discussion around skin colour, identity and nationality. “It can be used as a powerful way to get young people to think about the judgements we make about others,” says Higgin.

“We have also found that young people are passionate about justice and fairness, so it’s important to get them to think about how unjust it is when people are treated poorly just because they are different.”

talk to kids about racism

Start young on the subject of white privilege

“The majority of people who find the idea of white privilege problematic or challenging, simply don’t understand it,” says Higgin. “White privilege doesn’t discount the achievements of individual white people, nor does it suggest that every single white person has what we might consider to be a ‘privileged’ life. It simply acknowledges the idea that, even in 2020, one of the biggest ways somebody can be advantaged or disadvantaged, is the colour of their skin.”

It’s never too early to teach children about their own white privilege, he says. “When we talk to young people about the ways in which they are ‘lucky’, we are discussing the advantages they might have over others in life. By getting our children to think about how others might benefit, or be held back, by the conditions of their birth, we will help them develop vital critical thinking and empathy skills.”

talk to kids about racism

Make it a safe space

Don’t just talk, make sure you listen too. “The white kids in my research had a lot of questions about race that they told me they didn’t think they could ask their parents,” says Hagerman. “Understanding what kids already know, and what conflicting messages they are trying to negotiate, is really important.”

Higgin agrees it’s important to establish a safe space: “Make sure you don’t judge anything they say or tell them they are wrong. Ask them what they know about the Black Lives Matter protests. Ask reflective, open ended questions about their feelings.”

talk to kids about racism

Develop their critical thinking

Higgin says it’s really important not to simply give children the answers. “It’s more effective to help them develop the critical thinking skills through questioning, which will allow them to better understand and evaluate the material they are presented with online and the ideas they might hear on the playground.”

Next, they need to feel empowered to act if they feel there’s a need to challenge other people’s actions. “Simply being a strong anti-racist role model within your family can be the most effective way,” he says. “By making clear your stance on discrimination at every opportunity, you will be teaching your children that racism is unacceptable and to always stand up to injustice.”

talk to kids about racism

Consider the impact of your own decisions

“White parents need to reconsider what it means to be a ‘good parent’ (i.e. getting as much as I can for my own kid) and think more about how to be a ‘good citizen’ (i.e. how can my actions contribute to the common good?)” says Hagerman.

She says to think about how you’ve designed your child’s social environment, the cues they’ll pick up from it and the wider impact that might have.

“White kids in my research learned about race as a result of interpreting patterns they observe, related to where they live [for example, moving to a very ‘white’ area], where they go to school, the media they consume, their peers, and even where they travel.”

And while it’s natural as a parent to ‘want the best’ for your child, ask if any parenting decisions you make inadvertently disadvantage others. Hagerman says during her research in the US, she found white parents often act in collective ways to maintain practices and policies within institutions that benefit their own children and, in turn, disadvantage children of colour – sociologists call this ‘opportunity hoarding’.

This, she says, “reinforces their child’s position at the top of the racial hierarchy and teaches their children lessons about what it means to navigate the world as a white person.”

George Floyd’s death feels like it could be a pivotal moment in history, and Hargerman says this moment is “an invitation to white parents not only to talk to their kids about racism, but to think about how they can act in different ways so that what they say they value, aligns with how they actually live their everyday lives.”

10 Fun Craft Projects you Can do With the Kids

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

Give in and get creative. Claire Spreadbury rounds up her top picks for families.

When the stress of homeschooling starts to heighten, crack out the craft – easy, fun projects are great for encouraging kids to be creative, and can be relaxing too.

Get involved if you can, as focusing on just one thing can be wonderfully mindful, while your children will love spending quality time together. And if the mess stresses you out, choose an option you can do outside on a warm day – it’s the perfect antidote to feeling cooped up and crazy.

“When it comes to kids crafting, I would say the messier and the more creative, the better,” says Holly Harper, head of inspiration at notonthehighstreet. “One of the qualities I admire most in my nieces and nephews is their boundless imagination, and I tend to find the more freedom they have to do what they want, the more they enjoy the activity and the longer it keeps them occupied.”

Hobbycraft’s Ideas Hub is full of fun and simple projects. Katherine Paterson, their customer director, agrees getting crafty and creative is a great way to keep the kids entertained. “We’ve also launched an online Daily Kid’s Craft Club, with a different theme posted at 11am Monday-Friday on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“The craft club is focused on a theme, rather than a specific project, so more children can get involved using whatever materials they have at home. We’re seeing some really fantastic creations.”

Need some ideas? Try some of these crafty creations for yourself…

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

1. A rocket made from recycling

Let little ones raid the paper and plastic recycling and build rockets which can be painted in brilliant colours. You can even make one into a rucksack by adding string or ribbon for straps.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

2. Decorated stones

Painted pebbles are a must – they’re super easy and gorgeously pretty. Get the kids in the garden, or searching for stones on your daily walk. From ladybird pet rocks to crazy aliens, there are endless designs to be created. You can paint NHS rainbows and hide them in the woods for other children to find and re-hide, or get really arty by painting on beautifully intricate patterns.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

3. Immerse yourself in nature

Experiment with items found in your very own garden. Create a leaf rubbing, pine cone spider or a twiggy wind chime. Or collect up leaves, stones, sticks, flowers and grass, and create a nature picture or art installation (look up work by Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration).

4. Create crafty cookies

Bake biscuits and let the kids go to town on the decoration. Use sweets, chocolate, mini marshmallows, icing, sprinkles and popcorn, or buy a Children’s Monster Bake And Craft Kit, £23, from notonthehighstreet.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

5. Make a scrapbook

Now is the perfect time to start scrapbooking. Buy a book and let the kids stick stuff on the pages, write about their day, draw pictures and create collages. It will be a work of art and a memory to look back on once life returns to normal.

6. Master brilliant bunting

Everyone loves a bit of bunting – it’s so cheering, and easy and cheap to create. You can either use scraps of fabric (try upcycling old, unwanted clothes) and sew triangular shapes of colourful bunting, which can then be stitched on to a fabric string or ribbon. Or you can cut out paper or card triangles, punch holes in them, decorate with paint or pen, and string them up. It’s bound to brighten up the place.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

7. Paint like Pollock

Splash out on a lovely big canvas (Hobbycraft have a huge range from £6-£18) and make a family splatter painting inspired by Jackson Pollock. Choose your paint colours, get brushes of all sizes at the ready and take it in turns to splatter the paint over the canvas. Keep going, one-by-one, until you’re happy with the finished result.

8. Transform into a robot

Had anything been delivered to you in a large box recently? Let the kids make a robot outfit out of it by sticking bits together, cutting holes for the head, arms and legs, and decorating it however they fancy.

Hobbycraft's children's craft ideas

9. Let someone know you’re thinking of them

Make cards or postcards to send to friends and loved ones your kids are missing. The fronts can feature hand-drawn pictures or decorations galore, while inside or on the back, children and parents can write messages of love. Tell someone you miss them and why, say something that will make them happy, then send them through the post for a delivery of joy. If you fancy a kit to get you started, you can buy a Kids Colour In Postcard Portraits Pack for £6.50, from notonthehighstreet.

10. Build a den

Who needs an actual tent when you can build a den? Gather sheets, tarpaulin, card, newspapers, mats, twigs, cushions – anything that might be useful for taking cover beneath – and go to town building the biggest and best den you’ve ever attempted. Make signs for the ‘door’, and thread leaves on to sticks to prettify the area, then sneak tea and biscuits inside.

5 Winning Behaviours Students Need for Academic Success

Getting good grades isn't just about intelligence, it's about using crucial study approaches. Two education experts tell Lisa Salmon more.

tips for academic success

With the festive season over, it’s time for many young people to focus their minds on more serious pursuits, like studying and exams.

By the time students are old enough to take national exams, they tend to study using ingrained habits, believing they know what works for them. But just because the way you study has worked (at least to some extent) in the past, doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily work again, warn education experts and authors Steve Oakes and Martin Griffin.

The pair, who have both been sixth-form teachers, have learned that past success doesn’t correlate with future success, and achievement isn’t just about superior ability, but about sticking to habits, routines and strategies that deliver results.

So after speaking to thousands of students about how they study and what they do every day or week that makes a difference, Oakes and Griffin have written The Student Mindset (Crown House Publishing, £9.99) to identify the key traits and behaviours all students need to achieve their goals.

tips for academic success

“We work the way we work because that’s how we’ve always done it,” says Oakes. “Even when results at a new level of study suggest our approaches are no longer effective, we persist, doing more of the same, pedalling harder and hoping.

“In many cases, students eventually give up, concluding they’re not intellectually capable of study at a more challenging level. But they’re often wrong. It’s the non-cognitive elements of study that defeat them – the new habits, routines and approaches they’ll need. New levels of study demand new tactics and strategies.”

And Griffin points out that while there’s been plenty of debate around how much academic performance is predicted by inherited intelligence, it’s actually the non-cognitive element of study – habits, systems and behaviours – that students can change as they grow.

“Rather than debating precisely what proportion of our success is due to genetic predisposition, we should instead be supporting students in changing the ways they work as the programme of study demands change. This way, we prepare them more effectively for an uncertain future,” he explains.

Griffin and Oakes say the five key traits and behaviours needed for academic success at any level are: Vision; Effort; Systems; Practice and Attitude (VESPA).

tips for academic success

1. Vision

The authors say determined and successful students know why they’re going through the struggle of demanding study, and have strengthened their ability to defer gratification because they have a goal in mind which pulls them forward.

“We’ve seen the impact a magnetic goal can have on learners,” says Griffin. “But goal setting needs to adjust as students grow. It isn’t just a case of plucking potential grades from the air and hoping for the best – high-vision students are increasingly aware of who they are and what they stand for, and this growing self-awareness allows them to create a compelling vision of what success looks like, and what the future holds for them.”

So, for example, they don’t just focus on wanting to be a doctor, they know why, such as believing equal access to healthcare is crucial.

“This way, they can persist for longer and stay positive during difficult times,” explains Griffin.

2. Effort

The authors stress successful students equate their academic success with hard work.

“Putting effort into study isn’t a symptom of weakness for these people. They’ve surrounded themselves with peers who feel the same and are exacting in their standards and expectations of themselves,” stresses Oakes.

As students begin working at a higher level, the successful ones incorporate – subconsciously in some cases – ideas about everyday signals (or leading indicators) telling them how much effort they’re putting in.

Plus, they “snack on learning rather than binge”, so they might read a chapter of a textbook per week, summarise their notes in four half-hour sittings, write an essay in stages, or review their understanding by testing themselves on a topic.

“In short, they actively set themselves work,” says Oakes. “This switch from the passive completion of directed tasks, to the active sequencing of independent study sessions that work as leading indicators – a crucial part of unlocking higher levels of effort.”

tips for academic success

3. Systems

Successful students have developed systems that allow them to organise time and resources, say Griffin and Oakes, so they have neat files and folders, complete with handouts methodically arranged, so they can make connections between useful materials and therefore learn faster. They prioritise according to need and impact, and meet deadlines.

4. Practice

Successful students work on their weaknesses, spending uncomfortable study time operating at the edge of their ability, isolating the things they can’t do and fixing them. They complete extra work for handing in, done under timed conditions, and then pay close attention to feedback.

Oakes says many students hit crisis point when revision strategies used successfully in the past suddenly seem useless, as once information is fully absorbed, it then has to be used to analyse unfamiliar data, solve a problem or construct an essay argument.

“For students loyal to memorising information, this can be a shock,” says Oakes. “High practice students learn to adjust the way they revise, mastering the content as the course goes on so the bulk of their preparation involves high stakes exam-style problem solving. They are calmer and better prepared as a result.”

tips for academic success

5. Attitude

Successful students know two things that unsuccessful ones don’t: Failure is an important part of success, and learning is composed of a series of sharp inclines, plateaus and setbacks.

Mastery happens slowly through deliberate effort and application. Griffin explains: “All students face ‘the dip’ – when progress halts and backslides. It might have happened before, but what works at one level – reconnecting with our successes, reminding ourselves of our positive qualities, comfort eating and watching a bit of TV – might need adjustment as challenges arise more frequently.”

High attitude students have a broader and more robust range of tactics when times are tough, such as a strong support network they regularly rely on, because they don’t equate asking for help with intellectual inferiority.

“And they have techniques for handling stress,” says Griffin. “They know exams are not a test of their self-worth.”

tips for academic success
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