Why is it important for teachers and parents to foster a love of the outdoors, and what can you do to help kids learn about the environment?
1. Earth is our home
Just like we clean up our rooms and take care of our belongings, we need to take care of our planet! Instilling a sense of stewardship in our children helps them grow into valuable world citizens.
Encouraging hands-on interaction with the environment, through repurposing, reusing and recycling is a good way to start. It fosters environmental consciousness and inspires them to take action to preserve the natural world.
ACTION: Involve kids in sustainable chores, like separating recyclables, turning off lights and donating their old toys and clothes to charity shops. Then, search in your local area for environmental clean-up days or create one for your school!
If you are in Australia, Clean Up Australia Day sends supplies and even provides linked lesson plans!
2. We are all connected
Did you know that everything in the environment is connected?
Trees provide oxygen, which we need to breathe. Bees pollinate flowers, which help them grow into fruits and veggies that we eat.
Learning about the environment helps kids understand these connections and how we're all part of one big ecosystem. As Dr Jane Goodall says, “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, shall we be saved.”
ACTION: If you have a patch of land, help kids plant their very own vegetable or flower garden to tend. Or make the terrarium from Wildlife Wong and the Fig Wasp and watch how this mini- ecosystem it works without human interference.
3. The outdoors is one big adventure
Learning about the environment doesn't have to be boring! In fact, it can be really fun and exciting, especially if kids go on outdoor adventures, and learn about animals and plants in their natural habitats.
Exploration (even in the playground), discovery and learning can spark a sense of wonder and curiosity which translates into all areas of their life, and across all school subjects.
This experiment uses maths skills at the building stage, scientific observation techniques when it is used, art skills to record findings, and English writing skills to explain results.
4. Getting outdoors is good for our health
Spending time outside fosters emotional well-being, resilience, and a sense of belonging.
Time outdoors has also been found to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and improve mood (so get those teens outside!) In a learning environment, exposure to nature has been linked to increased attention span, improved concentration, and better academic performance.
Encouraging kids to spend time outside at a young age can also promote an active and healthy lifestyle as they grow older.
ACTION: If kids are not used to unstructured time outdoors, consider Geocaching together to find hidden treasure! In the playground, why not gather a pile of the gardener’s waste, and see if your class can make orangutan nests from Wildlife Wong and the Orangutan?
5. Understanding ecosystems is important for our future
Lastly, learning about the environment can be really empowering for kids.
Life on our planet is facing big challenges like climate change and pollution. Let’s face it, my generation has done a really bad job at protecting nature and its is going to be up to the next generation to turn things around.
The more kids learn about the environment, the more they will feel like they have the power to change things for the better. With knowledge, they can become leaders in their communities and inspire others to take action too.
ACTION: Never underestimate the power of reading to kids, reading with kids, or giving them time to read.
When kids are disengaged with reading, it is sometimes because they aren’t particularly keen on fiction so introduce factual environmental books and nonfiction narratives, like the Wildlife Wong series. Then prompt discussion around the facts and themes.
Learning about the environment is super important
So there you have it! By getting outdoors and learning about the natural world, kids can develop a life-long an appreciation for nature, understand its value, stay healthy, and become an important part of environmental solutions.
ACTION: Download my free rainforest species fact sheets for school projects or ask me to visit your school!
Together with my menagerie of puppets, I introduce kids to amazing creatures, hands-on workshops, important conservation themes, and ways they can take action to help their own environment. Let’s chat!