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Nurturing Ecological Awareness in Children

If you have the opportunity to be around children, or are a parent yourself, then you probably know that they are like little sponges, soaking in absolutely everything.

Kids see things we as adults sometimes don’t notice, and they are also very mindful about things that are going on around them. They are even aware of environmental issues.

Early child development is a time of continuous physical, mental and social growth. Children love to learn new things and often are not afraid to be excited about their accomplishments.

As adults, we pride ourselves as being the teachers and role models, but we may want to step back a little, just enough to let them think and explore – without being told what to look for. Regarding the environment, children may be taught about pollution, conservation or the importance of recycling. While it is obviously significant to teach ecological concepts, studies conclude what may have an even bigger impact is providing actual experiences that allow them to be an active part of their environment.

Studies have overwhelmingly discussed the importance of outdoor recreation and education for children. Many research studies have shown the need for external learning in creating positive environmental engagements. When kids are allowed to examine the outdoors it cultivates a deeper appreciation that is evident even later in life. There is a connection between a child’s initial involvements in nature and the spawning of ecological awareness.

Research reminds that child-based activities and learning that is actively play-based, as opposed to only textbook or verbal teachings, is more beneficial for their learning experience and develops a greater respect and appreciation of nature (EarlyChildhoodAustralia.org).

Children need to feel that they are essential as well as operational. Studies note the substantiality of being directly involved with nature, using techniques that do not limit children’s experiences. When children are given the chance to explore their outdoor surroundings, and on a larger scale, learn about their global environment, it can create a sense of association with the larger natural world.

You may be able to tell or try to teach a child what it means to be connected to others and the earth, but when they actually experience for themselves what it means, that is where the treasure is, because a lesson that is felt will not soon be forgotten.

So, as grown-ups, maybe we shouldn’t try to always be so focused on only teaching, but also offer platforms where children can learn on their own terms. As a society we need to remember that we are the ones accountable for raising socially and globally conscious children. Being proactive in making the resources available, getting kids outdoors and leading by example are great starts.

Provide the field and let them play in it. They will remember it later in life.

And if you get the chance, listen closely to the unremitting questioning of children as they wonder how the world works and try to make connections. If you listen close enough, you will probably learn something from them about your own place in the world.

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