Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Earth Day Kids - Get 'Em Outside
Many years ago, I read the book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. It is a powerful argument for the importance of getting children out into nature, giving them an attachment to place, and letting them naturally develop a love of nature. This emphasis in ecological-education would make sure that kids love nature before they fear ecological destruction, avoiding what the author termed "ecophobia".
Unfortunately, in our modern life children may not have any contact with nature, not even with where their food comes from. And so the primary task of teaching children to be good earth stewards is just to get them outside in natural or even semi-natural settings.
Hence, resources such as the books I Love Dirt, and Let's Go Outside by Jennifer Ward, and the many bloggers participating in The Outdoor Hour Challenge and writing about their efforts to go outside for an hour a day.
I think the many Citizen Science projects out there are also excellent ways to get kids outside and engaged with nature. My family especially loved Project Feeder Watch, as a way to get through the winter while still engaged with nature.
And I'm not saying that you can't get your kids involved in environmental activism or service projects - but (especially for young kids) it's better to do something fun and positive than it is to emphasize problems. Going out and planting trees or cleaning a beach can be a wonderful experience for kids. Take them back to that spot later so they can enjoy their work, and bond with the place even further. There is a huge sense of pride in seeing "my tree" or "my trail" or "my beach" and that is a feeling of pride-in-place that leads to Stewardship.