Sunday, 23 August 2015

Children, please disconnect from the virtual world and reconnect with the natural world. It will be worthwhile!

Introduction

Listening to the chirping of the birds, observing a ray of sunlight shining through the leaves or following the fluttering of a butterfly. Now wouldn’t that be a wonderful reality? Unfortunately for many children, these simple nature acts aren’t realized. Recently, there has been a decline in the number of children that participate in and enjoy what Mother Nature has so freely and generously provided. Over the last couple of years TVs, cell phones and laptops have taken over the world. Children don’t get enough exercise or fresh air anymore. The truth of the matter is that the virtual world has exponentially replaced the real world with unparalleled consequences.

Children are disappearing from the outdoors at a rate that would make them top of any conservationist’s list of endangered species if they were any other member of the animal kingdom - Tim Gill.



Mother Nature

Mother Nature is the perfect teacher that helps children to learn about the natural world in an interactively fun manner, while it simultaneously enhances the learning process and strengthens your children’s connections to nature. It is so vitally important that the natural environment must form an integral part of a child’s life and education. It is so wonderful to be in harmony with Mother Nature and fully immersing oneself in all she has to offer. Mother Nature offers such a diverse number of living things, including, diverse fauna, and flora species as well as abundance of land and water. Natural settings include places such as parks, forests, and gardens and offer an unparalleled natural setting.
Children don’t get outdoors anymore

Nature-entwined activities rarely take place nowadays. The sad truth is that children hardly get any exercise and fresh air as there are limited opportunities to connect with Mother Nature and don’t spend quality time in the outdoors. For example, simply listening to a bird sing is an unreality for many children. Even more worrisome is the fact that a lack of children’s exercise is further exacerbated by participating in unhealthy lifestyles, spending hours in front of technology. The truth is they would rather spend time indoors facing a computer, than to actually be outside and interacting with nature. This has led to a decline of children playing outside and having fun on a natural level, unable to fully take advantage of the benefits from such natural activities.

 Many children today find it easier to stay indoors and watch television. I worry that children do not know what they are missing. Children cannot love what they do not know. They cannot miss what they have not experienced - Mary Pipher.

Many children have developed a biophobia which is essentially the fear of the natural world and environmental issues. These children don’t know what they’re missing out on. Using all five of their senses to get a comprehensive idea of the activities (such as getting their hands dirty, making up games as they go along, and riding their bikes) simply don’t occur. What is even more striking (and disturbing) is the fact that they are not familiar with spending quality ‘green’ time outdoors anymore. The norm is to spend as much time indoors. They follow an indoor, sedentary lifestyles daily and spent way too much time in unnatural, man-made, indoor environments without getting enough exercise outdoors. This has detrimentally negative impacts on their health and developmental process.
  
Finding a balance between the virtual and real world

It is a widely known fact that technology provides various benefits as it helps to expand children’s knowledge horizons. Technology is a very good educational tool to assist in the learning process to learn more about the natural world and to fully enhance the experience knowledge. But this must be balanced out with real-life nature experiences. One has to have a balanced life, on the one hand, playing a sufficient amount outdoors, with being plugged in. Therefore, a nature-rich curriculum is of utmost importance whereby outdoor education programmes are integrated into the curriculum. If this isn’t possible, children should still get an opportunity to have access to green spaces and explore natural settings without any restraint, ensuring that children are in their (natural) element. Being in the outdoors is an extremely healthy alternative to spending time indoors, in front of the TV or PC.

 It is quite possible for today’s child to grow up without ever having taken a solitary walk beside a stream, or spent the hours we used to foraging for pine cones, leaves, feathers and rocks – treasures more precious than store-bought ones. Today it is difficult to tear children away from the virtual world of the mall to introduce them to the real one - Gary Paul Nabhan and Stephen Trimble.

Adults play a vital role in encouragement

It is vital that teachers, adults, and parents, being children’s mentors and leaders, open up the ‘green’ door to a whole new possibilities. They are in the perfect position to motivate children to get outside, interacting with natural settings and discourage them from spending too much time in front of screens. It is so vitally important that environmental education start at an early age. As a viable solution, parents must participate in natural activities, such as walking or riding a bike, which will help encourage children to do the same. It is widely accepted that children learn intently from their parents and their actions. When they follow a green, healthy, active lifestyle, children will soon follow suit as it is clear that their parents also find it enjoyable, educational, and beneficial and will follow in their parents’ green footsteps. 

Source: The Star
It isn’t always necessary to go to the park or ocean; going green starts at home. Parents must fully inspire children to participate in green activities at home, too. These can include recycling activities as well as maintaining a worm farm and will cultivate a great sense of respect to nature, thereby learning valuable eco-lessons and to be environmentally friendly citizens. It isn’t about merely reading about a natural aspect, it involves active, hands-on participation, like planting a seed and seeing how it daily grows with a bit of water and love which is simple yet effective. This will ensure that they are enthusiastic about caring for the environment and that natural aspects are daily incorporated in children’s activities. It is important to add an adventure and motivation element as this with help children to make full use of such opportunities. Children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. Therefore it is essential for children to be exposed to their own vegetable garden from a young age, giving children that satisfaction and achievement pride that they have helped to grow the vegetables and will bear the fruits (excuse the pun) thereof. Children therefore learns to be self-sufficient and live organically, eating only locally produced produce. Parents must keep an eye on the children in the green areas, but without intervening in their activities and games. This will ensure unrestricted playing, whereby children follow their own interests and ideas. They are therefore encouraged to play independently and do what they want to do and how they want to do it, but with adult supervision.

    Benefits of being in nature

It is axiomatic that a child-nature encounter will have a myriad of benefits and naturalized outdoor play environments have many positive effects for children. Mother Nature has all kinds of benefits and forms part of an integral learning experience for children. She offers a continuous learning process, while having fun at the same time. Nature is able to assist children, physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. It is good (and, really, obligatory) to participate in different educational and recreational activities that Mother Nature provides as it aid in their overall wellbeing. Nature is definitely a healing place. Children are able to learn by way of constructing their own knowledge about the world around them, and not merely only by memorizing facts. There is an enormous difference if a child merely sees a picture of a natural landscape and truly using their senses to closely experience it in a natural setting. This enables children to interact with nature on a more intimately and personal level, resonating that much deeper with them.

There are some perfectly good opportunities on offer in Mother Nature, especially to participate after school and especially weekends. Several reasons why kids need to go outside, what they will gain from green outdoor spaces, and reasons to save kids from an imminent nature-deficit disorder, include:

Health Benefits
Daily exposure to natural settings include several health benefits, such as:
·         Vital to their overall health and functioning
·         Improved quality of life as they 
      are healthier and happier
·         Increase physical activity
·         Fewer physical ailments
·         Faster recovery from illness
·         Improves eyesight
·         It boosts immunity
·       Improves nutrition and when they grow their       own food they are more likely to eat fruits and
    veggies.
·         Reduce childhood obesity
·        More advanced motor fitness, including         coordination, balance  and agility
·         Helps to sleep better

Mental Benefits
·         Better psychological well-being and functioning
·         Creates mental and emotional wellness
·         Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms as children concentrate more after
      connecting with nature.
·         Reduces absenteeism
·         Helps them deal with adversity
·         Alleviate stress – spending time at an ocean washes away (pun intended) their daily cares and
      is therapeutic, too.

Developmental Process
Source: Vivid Life
Spending time outdoors stimulates all aspects of children development as all five senses are used, including: 
·         It adds to the sensory experience
·         Expand natural and knowledge horizons
·         Development of independence and autonomy
·         Hone cognitive abilities, skills and functioning
·         Acquisition of knowledge, intellectual development, think resourcefully, higher concentration
       and self-discipline, creative problem solving, improved thinking and recall of information,
       developing important skills (e.g., initiative, literacy, math, science skills), thereby improving
       their academic performance.
·        Improve their awareness, reasoning, discovery, and visual-spatial skills (especially observational 
      skills) as they are tremendously inquisitive, interested, and curious about the natural world 
      and seek to learn more about the environment around them.
·        Children are able to handle challenges and problems better, to launch investigations, to think
      creatively and imaginatively and to find inspiration in small natural elements in Mother Nature.
·         Improved life skills
·         The ability to grow and learn to their fullest potential.

Social benefits
Enhance social behavior and relations by improving and stimulating social interactions with other children and it build   their confidence, enhancing collaborative skills, and children        more positive feelings towards each other.
Source: Outdoor Nation
A fun and enjoying learning experience
Nature can be used as an inquiry learning source full of endless possibilities, activities, and ideas. Nature-based experiential education have various benefits, including:
Eco Walk the Talk
·      It fosters creative play, excitement, and innovative ideas for the
     children and opens up a whole new natural world where their
     imagination can run wild as it explore socials, material and
     imaginary worlds.
·      Playing in the outdoor classroom makes learning fun as they are
    able to learn through landscapes, participate in free and fun
    exercise, and has a playful engagement with nature. They
    can get down and dirty and it provides an opportunity to let off
    steam.
·     It offers an opportunity to enjoy, acquire, research, and explore
    green spaces and there are diverse natural spaces, something for every age. Being outside helps      them remember that they are still kids.
·     When they spend some quality time in a natural environment, they develop their own sense of
    place and a sense of wonder. It leads to positive contact with nature and nature offers a sense of 
    wonder and being at one with the natural world. This sense of wonder enables life-long learning
    to occur.
·     It enables them to express their own ideas
·     It is a continuous hands-on, active experience, whereby they investigate and learn through
    activities that build on a child’s sense of wonder and curiosity.
Source: Nature Moms
·     It embraces a sense of adventure
·     It enables unstructured creative exploration, unconstrained
    physical movement, and self-led natural play activities, which,
    in turn, make children independent as they learn on their own
    terms in green settings and make use of diverse materials and
·     Keep children captivated and interested as their eyes are always
    curious.
·     A direct, real-life, positive experience with the natural world is
    an enriching engagement in the natural environment and fully
    participate in the natural games as they have direct contact with 
    green spaces.

Protecting our valuable Mother Nature

Mother Nature offers diverse fauna, and flora species as well as abundance of land and water. Children are the future generations to protect it and it is vital that they have an innate connection with Mother Nature from a very young age in order to protect it from future destruction. It doesn’t do children good when they are exposed to some of the most prominently terrifying environmental issues early on, and they don’t have enough time to develop a personal connection with Mother Nature. Before we can ask children to save the environment, it is important to cultivate their biophilia, their love for the Earth.

  
During early childhood, children’s experience shape values, attitudes towards the natural world and will continuously be used throughout their lives. It is imperative that children discover their relationship with nature, foster conservation attitudes, and commit to an eco-lifestyle from a very young age to care for our fragile planet. When nature-rich children have an inherent connection to the natural world by participating in natural activities on a regular basis, they will have an affinity to and love of nature and have positive feelings and an appreciation for Mother Nature, creating positive bonds with nature, emotionally and intimately connected and a positive environmental ethic, growing an understanding that nature does matter and to respect Mother Nature, and will be interested in preserving nature and its diversity and increasing their knowledge of nature, acquired an intuitive, deep understanding of the natural world, which is the foundation for sustainable development. It will also evoke an urgency for protecting it and it will enable caring about environmental stewardship, fostering a positive attitude towards the environment, and cultivate an essential respect towards other living things and preserve natural environments. The more they are connected to nature on a personal level, the more environmentally concerned they will become which will foster empathy and lead to participating in environmentally responsible behaviors. Children are stimulated to be mindful to the environment and which intensifies their relationship with Mother Nature, having a sense of acting responsibly towards the environment and an appreciation of the beauty of the natural world.

There's no way that we can help children to learn to love and preserve this planet, if we don't give them direct experiences with the miracles and blessings of nature - Anita Olds.

Source: Dreams Time
As George Monbiot argues, “If children lose contact with nature they won’t fight for it. Most of those I know who fight for nature are people who spent their childhoods immersed in it. Without a feel for the texture and function of the natural world without an intensity of engagement almost impossible in the absence of early experience, people will not devote their lives to its protection”.

When children study nature, it will develop their natural science knowledge, and provide an opportunity to learn to appreciate nature’s special species and the rich diversity thereof. The natural world is a complex place of beauty, mystery and wonder. It is important to closely attune our senses to the workings of the natural world. When children are more knowledgeable about natural aspects to understand the natural world, and how it functions, they are able to develop a life-long attachment and appreciation to the natural world as well as species living within this ecosystems. Animals are a source of wonder for children. It can help to foster a responsibility towards living thing as they instinctively interact with animals. It is about learning to be compassionate and considered towards the environment and to living things. It is vital to help raise awareness of how and why one must care for the environment and what they, as young people, can help to do their bit for the Earth, but do so in an interactive and fun manner.

If all of these aspects do occur, the natural environment will be honoured and cherished and simultaneously children will have an emotional attachment to our beautiful Earth. Children are then fully encouraged to be enthusiastic about caring for our fragile planet and evoke of urgency for protecting it.

Conclusion

It is time to bring children back to their natural roots, so to speak, and to expose them to the many green environments on offer. It is long overdue for children to up their green credentials and to experience and fully immerse themselves in enjoying an outdoor experience. As seen by the myriad benefits of spending time outdoors, in a natural green setting, is needed in frequent, regular doses, a Vitamin G (Green) of some sort. Green Rangers, we have an important mission for you: Be a kind green heart, and have a green start by spending as much quality in the company of Mother Nature. She will forever be thankful and will definitely be sending some green love back. Children (and adults), see you outside - our beautiful Mother Nature will be waiting! 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Threats to Elephants

Although elephants are some of the most majestic animals, their numbers are declining at a rapidly accelerating and unprecedented pace. Reasons/Threats include:

·       Poaching in Africa is a huge concern. If the current rate takes place, elephants will be extinct within the next 10 years.

·       As human populations increase, forest-cover decreases which lead to elephants to be in close proximity with humans. African elephants’ habitats have decline as a result of the land being converted for development, agriculture, and settlements, thus habitat loss has occurred as there are space limitations. Habitat fragmentation makes it nearly impossible to breed and also elephants are easily spotted and traps are set by poachers.
An example of habitat loss. Source: WWF.
 
·       A decline in elephant numbers are particular of concern in in central Africa and parts of East Africa and there about 500,000 elephants left on the continent.

·       Elephants are a huge target as there is an ever-increasing demand for ivory in China.

·       Abuse and exploitation also unfortunately occur.

What you can do to protect elephants

Take part in conservation efforts, and be Herd! Encourage other people to also get involve in order to conserve this important species. Educate yourself and become knowledgeable about animals and their habitats. Here is how you can also help elephants as an individual: http://worldelephantday.org/how-to-help-elephants

 


Source: World Elephant Day (http://worldelephantday.org/)

 

 

The wonder of elephants – facts about these majestic creatures


Source: Day Wallpaper Word press

·       According to the WWF, Tanzania's elephant population has suffered a catastrophic decline in recent years, with numbers plummeting from an estimated 109,000 in 2009 to just 43,000 in 2014.

·       African elephant habitat has declined by over 50% since 1979, while Asian elephants are now restricted to just 15% of their original range.

·       Without intervention, African (classified as vulnerable) and Asian elephants (classified as endangered) face extinction.

·       An elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory.

Source: Africa Green Media
 
Behavioural statistics

·       Every birth is a celebration and deaths of loved ones are mourned. Elephants have death rituals. If it dies, they dig a shallow grave and cover the body with soil or branches and can show signs of depression.

·       In the wild, each day is filled with socializing, exploring, playing, and participating in other activities.

·       Elephants live up to around 70 years, with females mostly fertile between 25 and 45.

·       Female elephants are social animals, living in herds with their relatives.

·       Males usually live alone.

·       All elephants need an expansive amount of space and rave to roam very far in search of food and water to sustain themselves.

·       The average elephant drinks more than 200 litres of water per day

·       African elephants mainly eat leaves and branches of bushes and trees, but also eat grasses, fruit, and bark.

·       Elephants can communicate over long distances by producing a sub-sonic rumble that can travel over the ground faster than sound through air.

Gestation

·       Males need to reach 20 years of age in order to successfully compete for mating.

·       The elephant has the longest gestation period of any mammal at 22 months.

·       When the calf is born it weighs around 115kg and will be suckled by the mother for another 22 months after that. Most females only reproduce once every four to nine years.

Source: A Cute A Day

·       When an elephant calf is born, it is raised and protected by the whole matriarchal herd.

·       Young elephants wean after 6 to 18 months, although they may continue nursing for over 6 years.

Physical attributes

·       Elephants are the world's largest land animals.
 
·       African elephant males are the biggest of the bunch, weighing in at up to 6 tonnes, while smaller Asian elephants can still tip the scales at 5 tonnes.
Source: Pinterest
·       The biggest can be up to 7.5m long, 3.3m high at the shoulder, and 6 tonnes in weight.

·       The trunk is an extension of the upper lip and nose and is used for communication and handling objects, including food.

·       Tusks occur in males and females which are used in fights and for marking, feeding, and digging.

·       African elephants have very large ears, allowing them to radiate excess heat. Their ears can reach up to 1.5 metres in diameter.
 
Source: Wikipedia
 
·       Elephants are the only animal to have four forward-facing knees.

·       Elephants have a very acute sense of hearing and can hear through the soles of their feet and the sides of the trunk as well as their ears.

·       A typical elephant brain weighs 5kg

·       Elephants can be distinguished by the number of toes on their feet. The African forest elephant and the Asian elephant both have five toenails on the front feet and four on the back. The larger African bush elephant has four or five on the front and three on the back.

·       An elephant's trunk has more than 100 000 muscles.
 
References:

Spreading some Ellie love on World Elephant Day

 
World Elephant Day is annually celebrated on the 12 of August. This special day commemorates our fascinatingly majestic creatures, the world’s largest terrestrial animal. This day is specifically celebrated by animal lovers to raise awareness so that elephants are respected and protected, thereby ensuring their future survival. This day helps to spread awareness to stop the ivory trade and to protect their habitat. Elephants are highly intelligent, charismatic, social, and empathetic and have an essential role in their ecosystems. But given the harsh reality faced by many elephants and many threats (including poaching and habitat loss) to their existence and habitat, it is so vitally important to raise awareness of their plight in order to conserve these majestic animals.
 
More than 65 wildlife organisations around the world spread an important message with regards to this important species and their conservation.
 
Whichever way you decide to help raise awareness, you will make an invaluable contribution. So please, spread the Ellie love and celebrate this important environmental day.