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Green Sense: Care for nature by enjoying it with your kids

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Green Sense: Care for nature by enjoying it with your kids





By Michele Mini/Columnist

GateHouse News Service

Fri Aug 10, 2007, 05:50 PM EDT


We are surrounded by news about global warming and environmental devastation. It is difficult for adults to sort out the facts and decide what to do about it. Our children are also bombarded by this same news and may be frightened and overwhelmed. What can we do to help them understand the problems and prepare to deal with them?


Environmentalists are not usually drawn to their work out of fear, but instead are often motivated by respect for and love of the natural world. This is supported by a handful of studies analyzed by Louise Chawla of Kentucky State University for her article, Childrens Concern for the Natural Environment, in Childrens Environment Quarterly. She found that most environmentalists attributed their commitment to the environment to two sources: many hours spent outdoors in a keenly remembered wild or semi-wild place in childhood or adolescence, and an adult who taught respect for nature.


This finding can take some of the fear out of our responsibility as educators and parents. Answering the tough questions about global warming can begin with something as simple as taking time together to interact one-on-one with nature.


Educator David Sobel suggests that real contact with nature fosters environmental awareness and empowers children who may be scared by the dire news they hear and see. In his book Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education, he suggests we nurture in our children a sense of wonder of the natural world that will set the foundation for a lifetime of respecting nature.


Summer provides many opportunities for this education. Simply taking a walk in the neighborhood on a bug hunt or bird watch can help to focus a child on the joy and wonder of local nature. The Web site www.greenhour.org, sponsored by the National Wildlife Foundation, provides simple ideas for giving your children a Green Hour every day. Make a trip to a pond or seashore and prepare with one of several kid-friendly guides to the creatures and plants you will likely encounter. Peterson First Guides, condensed versions of the famous field guides, are ideal for children. They include such titles as Fishes, Birds, Seashores, Wildflowers, and Butterflies and Moths. Many of these titles can be found and reserved online through the Reading Public Library at www.noblenet.org.


We are also in the heart of the harvest season in New England, making it the perfect time of year to spend time in a garden or visit a farm and learn how our food grows. To examine a bee pollinating a flower that will become a squash or a juicy tomato, and marveling at their inextricable relationship up close, can help a child develop a vital and real connection to nature. When they hear news about declining bee populations, they may not turn away from the issue in fear and anxiety, but may instead use their knowledge and interest in bees and nature to analyze and contribute to solving the problem.


At Drumlin Farm, a 232-acre farm and wildlife sanctuary in Lincoln, managed by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, families can explore a real working farm and get hands-on experience in a learning garden. There are also wildlife exhibits and hiking opportunities. Through the Reading Public Library, residents can reserve a Massachusetts Audubon Society pass that entitles families to a $1 admission fee per person. Passes can be reserved online with a library card number and PIN and then picked up at the circulation desk.


Educating our children about the environment in this manner has many benefits, including spending some wonderful quality time together. Enjoy the summer and enjoy these special moments.


Some more resources and additional information:


http://www.climateclassroom.org provides tips for talking to children at all different ages about global warming.


Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.


Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education by David Sobel.



Michele Mini is a member of the Reading Advisory Committee for Cities for Climate Protection (ACCCP).

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