“Let Nature be your teacher.” – William Wordsworth
What are your plans for the summer? Is viewing flora and fauna and the beauty of nature on your agenda? You and your children just might be fortunate enough to look out from inside your home and delight in watching a mated pair of songbirds caring for their young or an acrobatic squirrel leaping from tree to tree. You might grow a garden of flowers right outside your window that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. No matter what you see, it’s clearly evident that nature is amazing.
Ecotheologian Thomas Berry once stated: Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives. I couldn’t agree more in that sharing and teaching children about the natural environment is an important part of a child’s development. My children grew up enjoying nature activities from Joseph Cornell’s book, Sharing Nature with Children. In June 2015, a new book combined this award winning book and Joseph’s treasury of best-loved nature games for children and adults in one complete volume, Sharing Nature: Nature Awareness Activities for All Ages.
On Saturday, June 11th, the Defenders of Wildlife organization celebrated their 9th Annual National Get Outdoors Day. This national event encouraged families to go outside, visit a park or refuge, and renew a personal connection to nature, as well as regenerate a commitment to leaving a healthy planet for future generations. There’s nothing better than introducing your children to the wonders of nature, especially since it’s only a matter of time before the future rests in their hands.
If your summer vacation plans are taking you further from a nearby park or refuge, you might want to select a “call of the wild” destination by visiting one of the 10 best national parks for families. During your visit, you might enjoy spending time adding a species or two to your bird list, hiking to a beautiful waterfall, floating down a lazy river, or try spotting a wild mammal your children have never seen before. With nearly 500 mammal species in North America, finding a new one shouldn’t be too hard.
Christopher Todd (author of the book, The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids) suggested five tips for seeing nature and the outdoors through the eyes of a child:
1 – Keep it simple.
2 – Keep it flexible.
3 – Keep it positive.
4 – Keep it safe.
5 – Keep it stress-free.
Rachel Carson, most famous for her book, Silent Spring, was an American marine biologist and conservationist who has been credited with advancing the global environmental movement. She was also an advocate for educating and exposing children to nature. In her book, The Sense of Wonder, which was originally written as a magazine article (“Help Your Child to Wonder”), she wrote: I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.
Every grade level in Oak Meadow’s k-4 coursework suggests environmental awareness activities and exercises, for we, too, feel it’s important to introduce and teach young children about the natural environment. So, go ahead! Make summer plans, get outdoors, and let Nature be your teacher!