Methods to Remember: Concrete Steps for Teaching Conservation to Kids

Submitted by Jackie Edwards, Guest Blogger

image: pixnio.com

Now more than ever, environmental conservation is a hot button issue. Despite the fact that it may feel like an individual contribution to cleaning up the environment is insignificant, enough individuals can effectively become a collective. This means that our kids have also got to be taught how to conserve their environment and care for their local plantlife. For kids it may be difficult to understand environmental conservation and why it is so important, but with these simple steps you can make it fun, simple and engaging while they're interacting with your garden or the local flora.

Make Recycling a No-Brainer
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Too many people still don’t recycle their waste on a daily basis. Although multi-national companies are steadily becoming more environmentally friendly with their products, some still dispose of their waste in an inappropriate way. From a young age encourage kids to differentiate between what can and cannot be recycled.

Educate Your Kids 

Education about environmental conservation at an early age is key. Watching documentaries, attending conservation workshops and creating a life list (where your child lists all the flora and fauna they've found) are all great ways to help a young conservationist become enthusiastic about nature. 

Children naturally want to know more. They’re curious by the world around them and will always want to ask “Why?”. Take this opportunity to tell them a little about the environment and why it’s so important. It’s not necessary to delve into environmental sciences, keep it simple with only the headlines, enough to satisfy their curiosity.

If possible, you can try and show them the effects that environmental pollution has on plant life. Seeing is believing, and perhaps doubly so for kids.


image: http://ischool.startupitalia.eu

Encourage Eco-Friendly Activities 

Every child loves games. In fact, playing games is fundamental to a child’s upbringing and psychological development, and playtime every day makes for a happy and healthy child. However, that doesn’t mean that playtime can’t be used to achieve two objectives in one fell swoop.

Children are like sponges, so it’s best to take advantage of this while you can. Introduce them to gardening and basic botany. How to plant different seeds safely and how to compost in a safe and efficient manner. Plus, nothing will beat the smile on a child’s face when they see a plant that they’ve grown by themselves.

Get the kids involved and let them do the work. They’ll not only reap the benefits of learning some basic techniques of growing plants, but they’re more likely to remember it because they did it themselves. Once you feel they're ready you can take a day trip to a garden center and have lots of fun choosing what sort of plants they’d like to cultivate next.

Introduce The Kids to Animals

For children who grow up in the city, it can actually be tough for them to have a concrete relationship with animals. Indeed, some grow up not only being distant from them, but being afraid. This is a complete tragedy and in their adult life it could lead to apathy when it comes to animal conservation efforts.

The most obvious way to do involve your children with animals is to introduce a pet to the house. Despite the fact that this is probably the safest way to do it, pets (especially dogs) can be expensive, time consuming and a long term investment. If you’re not 100% comfortable with having a pet in the house then it’s a better idea not to get a pet at all. 


However, that doesn’t mean your kid need to be isolated from wildlife. Most cities will have a park nearby where local wildlife can be spotted and interacted with. Nothing will beat the smile on your child’s face when they interact with animals. If you live further out from a big city, it’s more likely that a child will have a relationship with some form of animal, but if not, do what you can to introduce an animal or animal friendly behavior into your child’s life as soon as possible. 

Additionally, you can introduce your kid to the different animals in your garden. Play a game with them where the goal is to find as many different insects, birds and butterflies as possible in the garden. Then, you can teach them about which species are beneficial to your garden, and which can be detrimental.

Gently introduce how a degrading environment negatively impacts an wildlife’s welfare. Try and highlight how animal species going extinct is a tragedy that should be mourned. A child’s empathy is like nothing else, and if anything, the thought of animals suffering will spur them to action.

Introduce Water Conservation 

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For modern kids, they may think that water is an infinite resource that can be summoned at will from taps. However, if you tell them easy to digest facts such as that only 1% of the world’s water is suitable for human consumption and that our human population is increasing, that means that water may become a more valuable resource as time goes on. 

Turning off the tap when they brush their teeth, taking a shower instead of taking a bath and using not to waste water when gardening are all simple little techniques that they should be able to introduce into their daily lives that will form long lasting behaviors.

This of course goes doubly for watering the plants. Teach your kids that watering established plantings with about an inch of water once a week in the morning is the most efficient way to care for your plants, especially as water restrictions may come into place in the hotter months. 

Children & Nature Network* cnaturenet.org
 Our future starts with the next generation, and it’s our responsibility to make sure they grow up to be responsible and environmentally friendly adults, actively concerned with conserving the environment. There are countless other activities that could be introduced to a child’s daily routine while their in the garden, but the techniques suggested here should serve as a strong springboard of a child’s environmental education.

Jackie Edwards works as an editor, researcher and writer in Reno, Nevada. Both she and her husband are keen environmentalists. With their two young daughters as eager and active participants, they like to spend family time working in their local area helping with everything from recycling, picking up litter, to promoting wildlife conservation. 

Comments

Juliet Rynear said…
Want to help FNPS with its environmental education programming? Contact our Education Committee: http://www.fnps.org/committee/education

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