June 1, 2024 9:00 am

Sarah Pye

The Vital Role of Environmental Education for Children

Our species faces an uncertain future because the relationship between humans and our environment is damaged or broken. Instilling environmental awareness and responsibility in the minds of young children is not just an option—it's imperative. Without it, our species will eventually go extinct. As stewards of tomorrow, the next generation holds the key to safeguarding the Earth for generations to come, therefore good environmental education for children shapes attitudes, behaviours, and understanding.

Connecting with Nature

Reading Shakespeare doesn’t prompt a love of the Baird’s work, because his plays were meant to be performed. In the same way, learning about nature in a classroom is a pale comparison to experiential learning. When children are immersed in nature, they develop a profound appreciation for its beauty and complexity. So such experiences foster a sense of wonder, curiosity, and respect for the environment, laying the foundation for a lifelong natural bond. 

Environmental Education Importance

It is imperative, then, that environmental education for children includes an outdoor component. It is for this reason I incorporated hands-on experiments in each of my Wildlife Wong books, many of which are conducted outdoors. Let’s take building an orangutan nest for instance!

Fostering Responsibility

Through interactive learning experiences, children learn about concepts like recycling, conservation, and biodiversity. Therefore this knowledge equips them with the tools to make informed decisions that minimise their own ecological footprint. A shift away from consumerism to embracing the R’s of sustainability is important if we are to live on this earth in harmony with other species. By instilling a sense of responsibility from an early age through environmental education for children, they become proactive change-makers who advocate for sustainable practices within their communities and beyond. Such advocacy and stewardship may even save our own species from extinction.

The 6 rs of sustainability

Cultivating Critical Thinking

The next few decades will be a tipping point for humanity and critical thinking skills will be more important than ever. You have heard it said that children are our future. As they grow, we need them to ask questions, analyse data, and evaluate solutions to complex environmental issues. By engaging in hands-on activities and problem-solving tasks that related to the environment, they develop the ability to think critically, creatively, and collaboratively—a skill set essential for addressing the wicked problems we face.

Nurturing Empathy and Compassion

One cornerstone of environmental education is empathy towards all living beings. By learning about the interconnectedness of ecosystems, children develop an understanding and a sense of empathy and compassion for the natural world. Through storytelling, role-playing, and environmental activism projects, they learn to advocate for the rights of animals, plants, and ecosystems, fostering a sense of global citizenship and social responsibility. 

Environmental Awareness for Kids

My school workshop, The Parliament of Animals, for instance, fosters these important skills through a day-long workshop where children step out of their human skin and argue the case of other species in a mock parliament. 

Parliament of Animals Children Participation

Environmental Action

Whether it be through outdoor play, research projects or experimentation, ultimately, the goal of environmental education is to inspire action. By empowering children with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to address environmental challenges, through education in childhood, we can cultivate a generation of committed change-makers with the power to create a more sustainable future for us all. 

Where do I begin?

If you are a teacher, download resources here to incorporate the Wildlife Wong series in your classroom and save you planning time.

Are a grandparent? Then the Wildlife Wong series makes a great gift and helps you start a conversation about conservation.

Or if you are a parent, I’d love it if you would connect me with your child’s school. Send me an email at [email protected]. Together we can ignite a love of nature in your children!

About the Author

Sarah Pye is a nature and wildlife nerd. When she’s not writing or teaching, she can be found outdoors… camping, kayaking, exploring or walking with her dog Gypsy.

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