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I'm a Cool, Really Green Teenager - Get Me Outta Here!

by Juliet Hawkins

How many cool, really green teenagers do you know? I've just run a day's activities on our farm for eight teenagers and, although hand-picked for their enthusiastic natures, they were not necessarily particularly environmentally aware or cool. Split into two teams of equal numbers of boys and girls (who didn't know each other), they had to design and weave a living willow seat on the banks of a pond; skin a rabbit; make nettle soup (and eat it); act out some very uncool animal behaviour (such as blue tits passing each other caterpillars in courtship); and write a poetry rap on what being green means.

One activity involved working out appropriate solutions for a variety of tricky situations - and possibly accepting that the coolest people are very often the ones that don't mind being un-cool sometimes. Despite the appropriate answer to saving water and energy after running the marathon being to have a quick shower, one teenager's solution was to not wash and hope his friends didn't smell him! Another suggested leaving her too-cool friend outside Oxfam while she went in to buy 'green' recycled blankets.

Instead of the ghastly voting out of your fellow team members as in the celebrity 'get me out of here' TV epics, each teenager had to vote on the person who had contributed most to each activity. It was satisfying to see that the only two children who had regularly attended our monthly Wildlife Watch meetings for several years were both winner and runner-up. All teenagers without exception have asked to come to more similar days in the summer. One hopes that inspiring children in natural history when they are as young as five years old will engender a life-long love of, and responsibility for, the environment. Instead of taking your kids skating or paintballing for their birthday, why not organise a few green activities? They'll love it.

Juliet Hawkins is a farm conservation consultant involved in conservation projects on her family-owned farm.

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