Youth are the future, which makes teaching them about the environment and their relationship to nature a top priority for educators. Those who learn about the importance of environmental stewardship can have positive impacts on local, state, national, and global environments. Teaching youth about nature can be accomplished through letting kids participate in active play outside, field journaling, starting a backyard garden, and taking your family on nature walks.
Outdoor play is an excellent which allows youth the opportunity to explore, play, and invent. It is recommended that children be outside for at least one hour a day to encourage active play. Play is beneficial for the growth of the whole child to include physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development. Active play outside can increase curiosity while encouraging a desire to remain outdoors, connecting youth to nature.
You can get your children involved outdoors by introducing them to field journals that focus on birds, bugs, or plant identification. The first step to field journaling is picking an item to observe and start investigating. Utilize as many senses as possible so get a close-up view, touch, and smell what you are observing. The following are fund activities to complete as a family:
- Bird Blind – Sit quietly and observe birds. Record the birds colors, size, pattern of flight, and sounds.
- I Spy Spiders – Search for spider webs and sketch the different spiders in your backyard. Bark and Leaf Rubbings – blindfold children and have them find a tree. Have them take bark, twig and leaf rubbings, sketch the tree and describe it in detail (ID it in a guide book later).
- Nature’s Poem—Have your child find a quiet place to sit alone and write down what they see hear, smell, and feel. Afterwards, have your child write a poem about their experience.
Having a backyard garden teaches life skills to include patience, responsibility, and independence. Academic lessons such as soil science, seasons, and plant science can be taught while gardening. Planting a garden provides a full sensory experience which engages youth in their backyard environment. Gardens teach the importance of conserving Earth’s limited resources and is a great way to demonstrate that food can grow and be eaten from your backyard. By growing a garden, youth can also learn green practices such as ways to compost, use of biological pest controls, and better treatment of their land.
Taking your family on a nature walk is good for the mind, body, and soul. Being in nature has been shown to improve mental health. Spending quality time outdoors can reduce stress, open up your senses to your surroundings, and improve your sensory perception. Walking provides your family with an opportunity to exercise together. Walking on nature trails provides the perfect opportunity to work out. Walking with your family is a great
One of the best ways to get your kids outside is to lead by example, play with your kids outside and show them that the great outdoors is an adventure waiting to happen.