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  • Writer's pictureAccokeek Foundation

Sustainability for the Next Generation

kids hands
“[My visit] made me more mindful of the products I am using and where I use it or dispose of it.”

Merriam-Webster gives three definitions for sustainability:

  1. able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed

  2. involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources

  3. able to last or continue for a long time

At the Foundation, we spend a lot of time talking – with our visitors, at events, on the blog, just in the office over lunch – about definitions 1 and 2. We talk about the products we use and our farming methods, and how those products and methods are sustainable, how they help us fulfill our mission of stewardship and sustainability of this place that we love. We teach people how to lead more sustainable lives through their actions.

To me, though, the key to sustainability – and Merriam-Webster’s definition 3 – is capturing the hearts and minds of the children who visit us. The only way to truly make change sustainable is to carry it over into the next generation.

“I started recycling more and turning off more lights.”


My position as museum interpreter means I get to spend a lot of my time on the ground, talking to people. I spend my weekends on the Colonial Farm interacting with visitors of all ages, and my weekdays leading students on school tours, and in both I get to teach a combination of history and environmental science (you can read more about our unique style of weekend interpretation here, and our school tours here).

“We stopped using styrofoam cups.”

Working so closely with children means I get to

planting rice
“It’s hard to convince your parents to change their habits when they have been doing the same thing for years.”

rotational grazing

Humans are creatures of habit, and as the saying go, old habits die hard. It’s difficult to start recycling, for example, if you’ve never done it before in your life. Teaching children from the very beginning about the impact of their actions, and creating a lifetime habit of making positive choices, is what sustainability is all about.

“I became more aware of how something may seem harmless but it can have really bad consequences.”

eco-explorers and cate
“I talked to my family about how important recycling is, and how it will help preserve land for future generations.”

All it takes is one moment to instill a lifelong passion for the planet in the mind of a child – whether that moment comes from convincing historical characters to make eco-friendly choices on a field trip, or playing a game about rotational grazing at an event to learn about sustainable farming practices, or planting seeds on the eco-farm, or just having a face-to-face and heart-to-heart interaction with a farm animal. For me, holding a child’s hand to walk him or her through those moments as they happen is one of the best parts of working here at the Foundation.

sheep and kids

#ChildrenandYouth #education #sustainableagriculture

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