Why Children and Nature?
Why Children and Nature?
“Teaching Children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.” Thomas Berry Dreams on Earth
I ventured in the world of Outdoor Classrooms as a parent at my children’s elementary school. A group of us created a Children’s Garden. Before I knew it, I quickly found myself volunteering to take classes outdoors and leading an after school garden stewards group. I was hooked! As an educator, I grew curious upon witnessing the connections children were making while exploring their natural world. I began to question, Why Children and Nature?
In my quest, I have become part of the revolution to reconnect children with nature and founded Outdoor Classrooms. Every Teacher Can be a Natural Teacher. I have shared some of my favorite articles that speak to the benefits of Nature on Child Development. Enjoy!
Every Teacher Can be a Natural Teacher
Step One: Understand the “normal” growth and development of the Child. I like to look at child growth and see how I can connect Nature to each stage of development. Here is a great article that does just that: Children and Nature: Developmental Stages
Step Two: Join the Call to Action. As educators, parents, teachers and leaders we all need to understand our role in the Nature movement. The World Forum Foundation’s article Re-Connecting The World’s Children to Nature invites us all to dig a little deeper.
Step Three: Add Resources to Your Tool Kit. It is so easy to get bogged down with the abundance of books, articles, and websites on this topic. Here are some key resources that will inspire your work as a Natural Teacher: Lighting the Fire
Step Four: Learn that Play is the key ingredient to teaching and learning. Here are two articles on play that spell out how really simple and critical Play is to the development of our children.
- The Importance of Playing, Puttering and Pretending
- The Decline of Play in PreschoolsTaking the Nature Prescription Seriouly–but not too
Step Five: Start your journey as a Natural Teacher: Take kids outside and teach outdoors! Here is a great article with 10 ways to start.
Why Children and Nature? Write a response and reflect on two or more of these articles in the comments below. Let’s start a revolution today!
Oh man, the importance of play! The outdoors indeed provides endless playing opportunities (for children AND adults alike!) This sentence from The Decline of Play in Preschoolers – and The Rise of Sensory Issues articles: “feeling the pressure to limit free play more than she would like in order to meet the growing demands for academic readiness that was expected before children entered kindergarten.” It breaks my heart, but is so true. Kindergarten now has such high expectations academically for children now. Not only is play important for the imagination and creativeness of individuals, but also the social aspect is so important – especially for preschoolers! Also the ending quote from this article: “If children were given ample opportunities to play outdoors every day with peers, there would be no need for specialized exercises or meditation techniques for the youngest of our society. They would simply develop these skills through play. That’s it. Something that doesn’t need to cost a lot of money or require much thought. Children just need the time, the space, and the permission to be kids.” I never thought of it this way. No need for specialized exercises or meditation techniques. It’s so true when you can just tell that a child needs to get outdoors and run. I see this quite often with my high energy students who are having trouble focusing.
From the Children and Nature Developmental Stages article: “She is also looking to adults for more information about the world
around her. She is no longer content to just smell the flowers. She wants to know their
names, and why there are so many different colors! ” – This is why nature school is so important at this age!! This is when children become interested in what they are seeing outdoors and want to know ‘why’. To relate to this from the article The Importance of Playing, Puttering & Pretending: “Due to the parts of her brain that are most active in the early years, the young child — up until around age seven — relates to the world primarily through her senses and her body.” The sensory experiences from nature are amazing. The feeling, smelling, hearing, tasting! So, so important, and so many opportunities to teach and learn these in the outdoors.
I feel like we need to have a cup of tea together and share. You are spot on and your reflections are deep and thoughtful. Thanks for sharing.
From the article ‘The Decline of Play in Preschoolers-and the Rise in Sensory Issues’,
“Preschool years are not only optimal for children to learn through play, but also a critical developmental period. If children are not given enough natural movement and play experiences, they start their academic careers with a disadvantage. They are more likely to be clumsy, have difficulty paying attention, trouble controlling their emotions, utilize poor problem-solving methods, and demonstrate difficulties with social interactions. We are consistently seeing sensory, motor, and cognitive issues pop up more and more in later childhood, partly because of inadequate opportunities to move and play at an early age.”
I found this article in particular to be quite alarming for parents who are unaware of the consequences. Working with children, you become aware of what child does not enjoy sensory activities as much as another child, but you never think to associate it with not enough play. I know that this issue is not just a ‘one size fits all’, for every child is different. I can see why this would affect children and how they are in a sense ‘changing’ with their temperament, patience, and social interactions. We are expecting small children to grow up too quickly.
The articles included in “Why Nature?” were of great interest and inspiration to me. The statement “As adults, we make decisions each day that either minimize or promote children’s ability to connect…” resonated deeply with me. The amount of information is amazing and has helped me to clarify my own thoughts, and to begin setting goals. I printed the articles- and it seems I am building library, not just a notebook! I am so excited to begin my work.
I love how you are “digging” deeper into the content and building your own resource library! Your journey is inspiring. Keep up the fantastic work!