Monday, 18 September 2017


“When we connect with nature, we learn to appreciate it more deeply”.

Source: WiseGEEK
Information for Parents and Teachers
Here’s just an overview of what Environmental Education entails and why it is important to motivate children to participate in nature activities.

Source: Forest Services USDA
Children just don’t spend enough quality time in a natural environment
Children just aren't accustomed to being outside anymore and they’ve little opportunity to experience nature because of technological advances. Regardless of where they live, children are isolated from the natural world as a result of spending most of their time indoors when they get back from school. Many parents are concerned by this fact. Many young children have limited opportunities for these wonderful educational experiences. There has been a considerably large decline of appreciation for nature in recent years, which, in turn, have had far-reaching impacts on both the children’s health, and their appreciation for the nature and their behavior towards living things. But, this has various negative impacts, especially on their health. This is known as a Nature Deficit Disorder. In many instances, because they are not frequently exposed to nature and its inhabitants, they are fearful of forests, beaches, or wetlands.

This means that children are possibly never going to develop positive attitudes and feelings toward the natural environment or achieve a healthy familiarity with their environment. An important question posed is “how can we convince a child that he/she has a right and responsibility to protect our natural resources if he/she is blind to the existence of nature in his/her own neighborhood? If we’re not cautious, soon children will hear about glaciers, rain forests, and disappearing islands, and then ask, “What does that have to do with me?” which will be detrimental for the environment.

Why should my child(ren) spend some time in the natural environment?

Source: Daily Record
As children are inquisitive by nature, the natural environment provides the perfect platform for to learn more about all living things. Who said anything about classrooms only having four walls? It’s one thing to learn out of a text book, but it is quite another thing to have a hands-on experience outdoors. It is essential that children learn about nature through real interactions. 

Source: Psychology Today
Once children have had opportunities to investigate their natural surroundings, they’ll be motivated to ask questions. They will only truly connect with the natural environment when they have regular and meaningful interactions with our beautiful earth. Achieving positive stewardship outcomes can be enhanced through approaches that build life skills while teaching about the environment and conservation. So, please, allow your children to have some fun outdoors and to get dirty, it will only be to their advantage if they do.

Source: Easy Earth
Every child (and adult, for that matter) should be able to experience the roar of crashing waves, the solitude of a forest, and the awe-inspiring views of geographical landscapes.

Source: Children & Nature Network

It’s beneficial to spend time in nature

Source: Wilder Child
Outdoor experiential learning is vitally important. Environmental education programs can assist in connecting children to nature in their backyards and at beaches, parks, and forests, thereby fostering an understanding of and appreciation for natural resources. Environmental education isn’t only good for the planet, as kids who spend time outside have been proven to be happier, healthier, and smarter. They learn about animals, plants, ecology, nature, and environmental issues. Children’s academic performance in Science, Math, English and Social Sciences increase significantly when they have hands-on experiences with nature and the outdoors. They’ll also have a sense of ownership and responsibility to their surroundings and develop a strong sense of attachment to natural environment.

There are special enlightened moments, one of which is when kids realize that they are smart in a different way from classroom smart. They learn to engage beyond awareness and awe to critical thinking and problem solving in the habitats they are exploring. They will have an increase personal sense of responsibility to conserve the natural environment, and also be aware of how their behavior and actions affect the environment, or, importantly, in the degree to which they practice conservation behaviors. By gaining the required knowledge, it will inevitably lead to a change in children’s behaviors and attitude. Children’s environmental knowledge is enhanced by learning about ecology and conservation. Nature can provide an outdoor science lab of some sort.  By taking children on field trips to remote pristine areas, it will help them develop an appreciation for nature and better understand ecology.

Let children spend as much time outdoors as possible. The most important thing about Environmental Education is that it has a lifelong impact on children’s (and adults’) lives. It is about celebrating the earth – every day. 

Start as early as possible
Source: Green Bank Woodland
Because children’s appreciation for nature develops at a young age already, it’s important to expose children to environmental education elements as early as possible. Young children are willing and eager to do their part in saving our planet; they just need adult help and encouragement.  Environmental education, based on life experiences, should begin very early on as these types of experiences play a critical role in shaping lifelong attitudes, values, and patterns of behaviour toward natural environments. The rationale behind this is that, first of all, children must develop a sense of respect and caring for the natural environment during their first few years of life as they are at risk for never developing such attitudes. Secondly, positive interactions with the natural environment are an important part of healthy child development, and these interactions not only enhance learning but also their quality of life. Children who are close to nature relate to it as a source of wonder, joy, and awe. Wonder (rather than books, words, or learning all the facts) provides an excellent direction and impetus (motivation) for environmental education in early childhood. EE during the early years should be based on this sense of wonder and the joy of discovery. It focuses primarily on young children exploring and enjoying the world of nature under the guidance and with the companionship of caring adults. Young children often develop an emotional attachment to what is familiar and comfortable to them. Consequently, if they are to develop a sense of connectedness with the natural world, they need frequent positive experiences with the outdoors.Feelings, rather than facts, are more important when introducing young children to the world of nature. 

Source: Hilton Head Island

The effectiveness and importance of Environmental Education programs
Source: Camping Road Trip
Source: Pinterest
EE can essentially be seen as an outdoor school. The definition of nature should be expanded to include the places where kids live, learn, and play. The simple fact is that Environmental Education Programs help kids (re)connect with the earth. EE programs can assist in elevating skills such as problem-solving, coping, and assertiveness. EE programs help to grow other life skills, such as cultural literacy, media literacy, communication, and also form good habits of the mind, prepare young people for adult employment, and fuel new levels of social and cultural capital. Adding environmental education to regular curricular activities helps children understand why their actions contribute to the condition of the world. Child-orientated environmental education influences adult knowledge and household behavior. EE is about pursuing an environmental stewardship. Being comfortable in nature is an important precursor for children to ultimately become stewards and conservationists.

Environmental education plays an important role in building awareness about how to live in such a way that they will conserves and protects resources for future generations. These types of educational programs are critical in fostering not only a healthier, but also safer planet. An important question posed is: “If our young people don’t spend time outside or have a basic understanding of science and ethics, how can we expect them to handle the environmental challenges we currently face as a society?” There are many opportunities for developing literacy, math and science skills when kids are outdoors as well as develop life skills. These types of experiences expand and reinforce what students are learning in school, principally in science classes. Educators employing environmental education methods can make classroom learning relevant, create meaningful science investigations, and help build a new generation of conservationists. One crucial aspect is to teach children to have empathy for living creatures. It’s all about getting dirty while having a fun, enjoyable, interesting, knowledgeable, practical, field-based, and hands-on experience. It is about incorporating wildlife and nature lesson plans. They will soon become aware of attitudes, responsibility, and caring for the environment. As a result of children learning best through direct, concrete experiences, they need to be immersed in the outdoor environment to learn about it. Learning has to require active involvement -- hands-on manipulation, sensory engagement, and self-initiated explorations. Children will be very comfortable being in nature.  By wholeheartedly participating in an Environmental Education program, it will transform them.

Source: The Riekes Center

Environmental stewardship behavior should be life-long. While single, brief, one-day long outdoor experiences certainly can make a strong impression, but on-going, regular exposure to nature will be beneficial in the long run. Pristine, remote areas offer rich nature-based experiences.

Environmental education activities can be integrated into all subject areas, including:

Source: Project Learning Tree
It incorporates ways in which to refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle, and describe features of local plants and animals, compare local plants & animals, learning about the food chain, and describe attributes of their immediate environment.

Social Studies
Source: The Irish Examiner
Here it is about showing an awareness of the concept of change, as well as identifying groups and places that are part of their lives, characteristics of different local environments, and to show responsible behavior in caring for the environment.

Language, Arts, and Math
Integrate the abovementioned aspects with classifying, comparing, counting, and graphing activities and making booklets and charts.

Physical Education
Source: Reader's Digest
This involves using the outdoors as a place to get physical exercise, but also to learn about how to care for the environment by participating (e.g., five times a week) in moderate to vigorous physical activities, as well as, importantly, to identify physical activities they enjoy doing.

Drama, Music, and Visual Arts
This involves expressing ideas or concerns about an environmental issue with drama, and songs, and showing their knowledge of and responding to environmental issues with 2-D and 3-D images.
Source: Nature Connections organization

Environmental Education includes aspects such as: animals, plants, water, endangered animals, farming and food, rain forest, polar animals, flowers/gardening, food:  fruit, vegetables, etc., trees/forestry, ocean theme, water cycle, global warming, seasons, and volcanoes. It also emphasizes the fact that natural and human systems are all connected.

It is about taking responsible actions and explore the environmental impact of what they do. As children participate in environmental education activities, they will inevitably develop an understanding of environmental issues and form an environmental ethic of their own.

Teachers/Parents’ role
Source: Telugu One

In order to get as much out of an environmental education experience, teachers and parents’ assistance is required. 
As you model excitement about nature, having an interest in it, and caring for the environment, your children will also inevitably become enthusiastic. You, as their parents/guardians play a crucial role as they watch and imitate your attitude, behavior and actions towards the all living things. A lot of kids are very motivated, but they need guidance. Parents and teachers are the most important person in children's lives in terms of cultivating that reverence for the environment. When you do this, you’re empowering the children. One of the most important aspects that teachers must remember is to aligning what is learned in nature to what kids are learning in school – especially in science class. This will ensure that progress is accelerated. Providing opportunities for such environmental experiences and sharing them with young children is the essence of environmental education. All children should strive to experience the outdoors and to achieve this, your assistance is required.

Because young children learn about the environment by interacting with it, educators and other adults must attend to the frequency, nature, and quality of child-environment interactions. Moreover, if you help children become aware of what's around them, and also help them to be comfortable about it, they are not just going to respect it but they will also want to protect it. It is hoped that, because of this positive environmental influence, they'll grow up to be responsible, caring, knowledgeable adults, who will be custodians of Planet Earth. By modelling a caring attitude and respect for the natural environment, it will be a good incentive for children to do the same.

By demonstrating a personal interest in and enjoyment of the natural world, are critical to your child's interest in the environment. Exposure to nature activities should be provided on an almost daily basis in order to achieve optimal results. A one-time trip to a park or nature preserve will have a limited impact on young children.

But, how can I do it?
Focus the children’s attention on their immediate environment, the school, their homes and nearby parks.

This learning experience should be done in a particular order, following a pattern of 1) awareness or appreciation 2) knowledge, which then leads to 3) understanding, and then to 4) responsibility.

A strategy for making it meaningful starts with their voices: Ask what issues they care about in their community and identify connections to environmental topics, followed by exploring ways they can make a positive difference in their community and for the environment.

It can also be achieved by providing frequent positive experiences outdoors.

Environmental Education activities, games, and resources
There are a myriad of practical, hands-on, field-based experiences, activities, and games that can be done. When children are outside, they’ll investigate, ask questions, and explore without teacher led experiences. Include as many field trips outside as possible, throughout the year. In the beginning, focus on activities at home in the backyard or at school. The most important thing to remember is that they engage with the environment and immerse themselves with what nature has to offer. Focus one small living creature; don’t overwhelm them by looking at a whole forest. Besides investigating the elements of the natural world already present in an outdoor setting, it’s important to use different strategies to transform a typical playground into an environmental yard, including by adding bird feeders, wind socks, flower and vegetable gardens, tree houses, rock piles, and logs. Find small ways to learn about nature and explore it by visiting a beautiful place, looking after an animal, a meditative walk, or tend a garden. Afterwards, provide them with tools for experimenting and investigating (such as a magnifying glass, water hose and bucket, hoe, rake). Here it is important to focus on “experiencing” rather than “teaching”.  They will gradually engage in deeper, longer, nature-based activities.

Young children should not be expected to "watch and listen" for any length of time, nor should they be expected to always follow your lead or agenda. Focus on what children find of interest rather than competing for attention through adult-selected activities and materials.

ü  Take a field trip to e.g. a nearby pond, wetland, forest, mountain, or beach.
Source: Brunette in Red
ü  Grow a children’s garden to get kids excited about the environment
ü  Plant trees at your school or at home
ü  Teach the children to be observant at all times - ask them to name the creatures based on their own observations. Also, encourage students to notice the habitat that specific insects live in.
Source: iStock
ü  Supply the students with plenty of materials to make observation booklets such as “My Pond/Forest/Wetland/Beach Book”.
ü  Go hiking
ü  Talking to children about taking care of the Earth is not as effective as demonstrating simple ways of expressing their care and respect. This can be done by gently handling plants and animals in the classroom and at home, establishing or maintaining outdoor habitats for wildlife, properly disposing of trash, and recycling or reusing as many materials as possible.
ü  Provide on-going experiences with the grass, trees, and insects in environments close to home or school and, after being accustomed to nature, arrange day trips to a park, nature reserve, beach, or forest.

When children compare what they learn in the garden with what they learn in the forest, noting the impacts of human intervention in natural systems, they’ll develop an even stronger sense of what is helpful and what is harmful.

Source: Texas Children in Nature
The most important thing to always teach them about the four Ls of learning about living creatures:
·         Look at them
·         Learn about them
·         Let them go
·         Leave them alone.

While out and about in nature, ask the following questions:
·         What’s your favourite thing about being in nature?
·         Where’s is your favourite place in nature? Write a description, draw a picture or describe the place to someone else.
·         What makes it special?
·         What sounds do you hear? Do this once the children are quiet so that everybody can hear and give their own observations and opinions.

Get your children involved in protecting the planet
For young and older children

Start an Eco- or wildlife club at school
Participate or inspire children to start their own club at school. This is an effective way to protect the planet. This is one of the best ways to teach children about the environment. It can also be a recycling club. This will be twofold: It is using you as a parent/teacher as a model and practice what you preach, but also teach them about all of the important things that is happening with our environment. Many children would love to be a leader. Not only is it teaching them leadership skills, it's teaching them about being responsible.

Join local environmental organisations
These organisations are always appreciative of people volunteering their time and even the little ones can play a positive role.

Observing the Micro-Universe
Peg out a 1 metre x 1 metre (3ft x 3ft) square in a patch of nature.  Sit in the square for 20 minutes, focusing only focus on what is inside the square.  Observe the terrain and the myriad of natural dramas which are unfolding on the micro-scale.

Star therapy
Lie down under the night sky and watch the stars (or clouds in the daytime). 

Camping in the Backyard
It is nice to go on outdoor camping trips, but why not camp in your own backyard?

Nature Scavenger Hunt
In a nature area, give participants this list of items and send them off to collect them either alone or in pairs depending on age group. Adjust the difficulty with every age group. An example is to hand out an egg carton and a list of 12 items to collect (natural items which are: soft, spiky, blue, strong, beautiful, old, fragile, yummy, sharp, smooth, closed, open, wet, dry, from an animal, dead, etc. (be creative).

Studying trees
Convey the basic facts about trees and then each child chooses their own tree and then study it. For the older kids, more detailed facts can be given.

Nature trail sheet
Create a nature trail sheet – let them search for everything on the list. Add a photograph of every aspect (animal, tree, plant, insect, etc.) and a short description. Once they have found all of them, give them a small present for their effort.

Plan special and significant games and activities around these different environmental days:
Earth Hour - 24 March

Earth Day - 22 April 

World Environment Day - 5 June

International Beach Clean-up Day - 16 September

More activities and games for young children
Source: Natural Start Alliance
Begin with simple experiences. Young children learn best through experiences that relate to what is already familiar and comfortable. Thus, the best place to start is in an environment similar to what they already know. For example, focus on a single tree in a backyard or playground before venturing into a heavily wooded area.
·         Stickers - Kids love stickers. This is self-explanatory
·         Natural Orchestra - Create a musical performance using only natural materials.
·         Leaf Rainbow - This is a nature art exercise. In small groups, students search for leaves of different shades and colours and essentially create a leaf rainbow.
·         Species fact sheets – this is very informative. Provide them with a few facts about each species. Do not only let them learn about these species, but let them search for each species, too.

More activities and games for older children
Source: National Environmental Education Foundation
·         Start a Camping Team - Inspire your students to spend a night under the stars by participating
·         Tell the children to bring their camera with. They’ll be able to take stunning photographs.
·         Bring photography into your classroom by challenging your students to take photos of the nature around them and enter Ranger Rick's "Your Best Shot" Photo Contest.
·         Schoolyard Habitats - Learn how to start or develop your Schoolyard Habitat into an engaging outdoor classroom filled with fun lessons about plants, wildlife and ecosystems.
·         Young Reporters for the Environment Find out how your class can enter this environmental journalism competition.
·         "Unplug Me" Reminder Cards - Students create original reminder cards to unplug appliances for their schools and homes.
·         Fundraise to Help Wildlife - learn a few options for channelling this passion into action and let us know what you're up to!
·         Night Eyes - Go for a night walk without a flashlight (torch). At first, sit in one place and let your eyes adjust (10-15 minutes).
·         Sensual Awareness Inventory - An eco-therapy exercise adapted for a group setting.  Participants identify what experiences give them pleasure through each of their five senses, then share and discuss this with the group.
·         Solo Hour in Nature - We are rarely "still" in nature.  Visit a natural place that is conveniently available.  Spend one hour in silence.  Simply observe and be.  Relaxing and opening.
·         Secret Smells - A guessing competition - use different smells from nature (e.g., flowers, leaves) - who can guess them right?
·         Make an organic garden and composting system
·         Role-playing – Each participant play the role of a part of the natural environment, then speak during a "council of all beings" where there are no humans present. Before the role playing begins, participants make each make a mask to represent their particular aspect of nature. This if a fun and educational activity.
v  Portraying the Elements: Earth, Air, Fire & Water (Drama/improvisation warm-up) - Allocate each person an element and discuss what kind of personality/behaviour attributes belong with to each elements as well as how humans-induced activities impact them.  Then have people move through the play space, acting out their element.  Rotate through each element.
v  Another option is about the impact of litter and pollutants on our sea birds and marine animals. Commonly found items (including plastic bags, bottle tops and cigarette butts), can be fatally mistaken by coastal birds and animals.  Students must work in pairs, one is the narrator and one is the coastal animal. In this way, role playing will help learners identify with the animal and allows them to be creative in developing a narrative and actions. For younger groups, the teacher can narrate.
·         The Recycle Challenge
1.      Use study of worm farms with students to help understand the food chain and how nature recycles.
2.      Also, children can be taught to recycle at school where they sort all the different materials. Emphasise the positive impact it can have on the environment.

Extra resources
Search for the following websites for inspiration too:

Children of the Earth – This is another useful website as it promotes a greater understanding and respect for animals, plants, water, soil, air and energy systems. Furthermore, it aids in helping children to understand the positive and negative environmental effects of our actions.

Climate Classroom Kids - Access climate change lesson plans, fun volunteer activities, guidelines, and tips for discussing climate change with children.

Cool the Earth
Resources designed to engage kids and their families in climate change by motivating them to take simple actions to conserve energy.

Earth science is emerging as a demanding high-school science course that prepares learners for informed citizenship.

Earth Matters 4 Kids – Earth Matters correlates science with basic environmental principles, helping teachers, students (K-6) and community members gain a full understanding of how science works in natural surroundings, by bringing a virtual natural world into the classroom.

Eco-schools International – visit their website.

EekoWorld - a website specifically focusing on teaching kids ages 6 to 9 how they can help take care of the earth. They make use of animated characters use games and activities to present environmental facts about ecosystems and pollution.

Environmental Curriculum (Think Earth) – This comprehensive, award-winning curriculum teaches students about the importance of a clean, healthy environment and about what they can do to: conserve natural resources; reduce waste; and minimize pollution.

Environmental Education Activities & Resources - Green projects, lesson plans, activities, professional development, and more.

Environmental Education for Kids – It is an informative, online magazine for grades four to eight, comprising articles and activities about animals, plants and environmental issues.

Global Warming Kids Site – It helps to explain what global warming is and what causes it, and what they can do to help stop it. It uses simple global warming-themed games and gives a scientific term and a definition thereof.

Green Foundation Curriculum - Environmental education lessons that provide step-by-step instructions and assessment strategies.

Green Guide for Kids – It gives children, their families and teachers with information, projects and solutions to help keep the planet green.

Kids Planet – learning about how children can help defend the environment.

Kids Saving Energy – Games, tips, facts and information for kids to learn how to save energy.

Lesson Plans - Download lesson plans and curriculum ideas for teaching about wildlife, habitat, conservation and more.

National Geographic Kids - Read kids’ stories and interviews with scientists, watch videos, look at facts and photos of animals, try activities and games. Find out what everyone’s reading about on the site.

Nature Works Everywhere - Get your family back to nature! This site offers easy tools and tips for planning a family nature adventure. Enter the age of your kids, how much time you have, and the location and the website gives you ideas for activities and events.

Ocean Explorer - Find hundreds of lesson plans built around specific ocean exploration expeditions around the globe.

Ranger Rick Magazine - National Wildlife Federation's award-winning children's magazine is packed with engaging content and activities for kids.

Recycle City –This is a fantastic way for kids to learn the basics of recycling. You can even create your own Recycle City scavenger hunt.

The Green Squad – This is an important website, showing how to identify and solve environmental problems.

Treetures – As the name suggests, it’s all about trees and their importance.

The fact is in order to create a better tomorrow, it is critical that children are taught how to preserve the environment today. Helping children understand that there are many ways that they can participate in making the earth a healthier place to live, by planting a tree seedling, for instance, can have long term consequences.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Youtube