When we think about education, learning and knowledge we often think about an actual classroom with four walls but there are many other learning environments that have no walls and that offers endless opportunities for children to learn. The nature with its fantastic library of knowledge is a developmentally appropriate classroom for children to learn about nature.
Children need a broad variety of learning experiences and opportunities to grow in areas such as gross and fine motor development, social-emotional development, language development, and creative expression and nature offers all this opportunities. Nature also promotes problem-solving skills scientific and mathematical exploration, language and pre-literacy skills.
In nature children can discover how nature works, learn the correct names for animals and plants and learn to question and investigate.The best way for small children to learn is when they can see objects touch them, taste them, hear them and smell them.Let children be active learners, children benefit from active hands-on discovery learning opportunities.
“Experiences in nature are more important than facts and book learning about nature to create childhood connections with the natural world.” David Sobel
To give children environmental education for sustainability is more important than ever before and it needs to start at any early age with hands-on experience in nature. Place-based outdoor learning promotes a relationship with the natural environment and provides an environmental knowledge and ecological understanding of the world. The future needs ecological literate adults who are able to recognize common plants and animals and interpret what they see in nature.
Respect, protect, and preserve the natural world
Children must be educated not to leave rubbish behind and throwing things away in the environment. We as adults must help children to understand the damage litter can do to wildlife and the environment.
Respect for all living
Everything goes around in nature.
Nature has its own clean-up crew. You can introduce the children to nature’s recyclers and encourage them to be like nature and recycle, too! The life cycle of a tree provides children with a good example of recycling in nature. Leaves that fall down from the tree, make a leaf litter on the forest ground. Leaf litters are habitat for a big variety of nature’s recyclers.
Nature’s recyclers are decomposers; they decompose or break down organic litter into nutrient components that will return to the soil. Nature’s recyclers come in many forms snails, slugs beetles, sow bugs, earthworms, millipedes, fungi, mushrooms, lichens and microbes. Observe together with the children nature’s recyclers in their natural setting during the warmer months of the year. Don’t disturb their homes any more than is absolutely necessary.
How do you grow an environmentalist?
If we want children to care about, preserve and love the natural world, shall we teach them about the destruction of the rainforest, global warming and about endangered species dying off? “No says Louise Chawla Researcher and Professor in Environmental Design of course it is important for adults and even teenagers to become aware of such problems and issues but many environmental problems are just too abstract and complex for young children who still believe in the Tooth Fairy.”
Step 1: Back off the bad news.
Step 2: Let children explore nature. Let children have fun outdoors. Lie in the grass, look under a rock, plant a seed, wade in a creek, get a birdfeeder, go fishing, climb trees, watch butterflies.
Step. 3: Teach them to practice environmental ‘good manners” as a daily habit without telling them that if they don’t “the ozone hole will quadruple.” If children ask why, “say something like: We want to be smart about how we use the earth’s resources. Louise Chawla
We teach about climate change, global warming, extinction of spices and ways to “save the planet” without thinking about the effects these lessons can have on children. David Sobol calls the fear that this kind of teaching breeds “ecophobia”.
“Ecophobic” (i.e., fearful of environmental problems)
David Sobel states that it is only when children get to age 12 that they are really ready for social action, for “changing the world”.
David Sobel is an education writer who has helped in developing the philosophy of place-based education. He has written extensively on the topic in books and numerous articles.
He has published five books including Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and Communities and Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education
Click on the link and read chapter Chapter 11 “Young children, environmental education and the future” by Julie Davis
Click on the link and download two plays that you can do in nature with children Kim’s Play and Scavenger hunt
Get Outside — and Learn Something New!