Kids Care About Climate Change With Colorful Drawings

A gigantic banner helps spread the message globally.

penguin drawing

Kids Care About Climate Change initiative

There’s a giant banner traveling the world, spreading the message about how kids care about climate change. The banner is a colorful patchwork of more than 2,600 drawings made by children from 33 countries.

The drawings were entries in an international drawing contest where kids were asked to depict how trees help cool the Earth and how this helps protect penguins, coral reefs, and people. A tree has been planted for every drawing entered in the "Kids Care About Climate Change" contest.

The banner is a whopping 23 feet high by 14 feet wide (7 meters by 4.2 meters) and was recently on display at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland. 

The competition was created by Marji Puotinen, a geographer and research scientist in Perth, Australia, who studies the impact of natural disturbances like hurricanes on the world’s coral reefs. She’s part of the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program that is working to help the Great Barrier Reef survive with short-term interventions while the world is reducing carbon emissions.

Perhaps even more important than the above is that I am a mother of three kids who deserve a safe planet on which to grow up and live. Therefore, the drawing contest that produced the GIANT banners is part of what I do unpaid in my spare time, involving my own kids as much as possible,” Puotinen tells Treehugger.

tree drawing

Kids Care About Climate Change initiative

As part of Homeward Bound, an international leadership program for women, she devoted even more time to kids and climate.

“I created an outreach program about climate change that asks kids to be a scientist for a day and discover the answer to a crazy question: What do penguins and coral reefs have in common? It uses immersive fun and art to understand why climate change is a crisis – such as touching coral skeletons, feeding like coral polyps, getting overheated in a penguin huddle, making Marji the coral polyp bleach in a costume and making corals out of playdough and LEGO.”

In 2018, for the first version of the Kids Care About Climate Change drawing contest, she created a giant banner and filmed it in a penguin colony along the Antarctic Peninsula.

Earth drawing

Kids Care About Climate Change initiative

This time around, Puotinen offered kids a video that explains how trees remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, why this helps cool the Earth, and why penguins and coral reefs are threatened by warming seas.

“We wanted to provide an easy pathway to empower kids to work together with each other and adults to build a safer, cleaner, greener, more prosperous future for all,” she says.

She visited schools in person in Perth and virtually in Indonesia and China and contacted every school she has ever worked with and every teacher she knew in several countries. She emailed hundreds of schools and did podcasts, radio interviews, and sent messages to everyone she could think of to spread the word about the contest.

The competition eventually received 2,629 entries from 33 nations and 213 schools, as well as a few homeschoolers. They came from every continent except Antarctica.

“The home country of the artist made a huge difference to how kids interpreted the theme,” Puotinen says. “Kids in Mozambique, for example, did drawings that focussed on how trees make the essentials of life possible, while kids from Australia focused on the fun activities they can do in and around trees.”

An Enormous Message

climate change banner
At St. Mary's Anglican Girls' School in Perth.

Marji Puotinen

Puotinen printed two identical banners so that one could be sent around the world and one could tour Australia with her.

“Due to their enormous size, the banners had to be printed in 5 sections each, and then painstakingly and robustly sewn together by my husband on an industrial sewing machine. Each banner took him 10 hours to construct,” she says.

The lightweight banners include handles all along the edge. 

“This makes the banners very robust to rough handling by enthusiastic children (who love to use the banner to play the ‘parachute game’) as well as hanging it over rainforests where it can get buffeted by the wind,” she says. “The handles also mean that you can hang it, march with it, and peg it to the ground when it is windy.”

tree drawing with birds

Kids Care About Climate Change initiative

The banner has visited schools and colleges in Australia, as well as a mangrove forest and national park. It was on display at COP26 and plans are tentative for it to visit Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore, where so many entries came from.

“The goal of displaying and filming the giant banner is to amplify the voices of the kids as expressed by their drawings, to show them how one drawing they do may not be noticed but by joining together with other kids around the world, a greater impact can result,” Puotinen says.

“It is also to inspire and empower the adults around these kids, who might struggle to find a way to act on climate on their own but find it easier and more fulfilling to do so in cooperation with their children. Within this goal, we especially wanted to bring the giant banner to COP26 to remind delegates and world leaders of their obligation to achieve results for climate justice for kids and people around the world that did little to cause the climate crisis yet are being affected the most.”

Planting Trees

drawing of tree

Kids Care About Climate Change initiative

Puotinen teamed up with an Australian tree-planting organization called 15 Trees to plant a tree for every drawing. The group organized community groups to plant more than 50 different types of native Australian trees in two locations.

“We hope this inspires kids to join tree planting efforts in their local communities,” she says “Such as 10 kids from Pakistan did as part of producing their drawings – they voted and made a pact to each plant a tree and care for it. And two more kids from Africa challenged themselves to plant a tree for each ‘like’ their drawings received via social media.”

Puotinen says she feels that the contest and gigantic banner have helped raise awareness and discussion about climate change.

I learned from the first contest that people are often very concerned about the climate crisis, but they feel overwhelmed and doubt that anything they can do can matter,” she says. “We aim to show them how good it feels to reach out in community to other people around the world to work together to make their voices heard through art.  In short, we aim to provide a pathway to action for kids and the adults who love them.”

View Article Sources
  1. Puotinen, Marji. "Kids Care About Climate Change: Plant a Tree, Cool the Earth." Kids Care About Climate Change, 2021.