5 Key Elements for Environmental Education in the Preschool Classroom
It’s exciting to witness educators picking up on the Call to Action to reconnect our children to Nature. This conversation has re-introduced a dialogue about Nature-Based Education, Green Curriculum, Natural Teachers, Outdoor Classrooms and School Teaching Gardens. What do all these words mean? This past week, I was invited to facilitate a workshop on Environmental Education for Preschoolers. My first thought was, “Wow…Environmental Education is such big words for such little people.”
I began to play with these BIG words which led to what I like to call Curiosity Conversations. What is Environmental Education? What does Environmental Education look like in preschool? Why is Environmental Education an important part of the preschool curriculum? How can teachers get started and make Environmental Education part of the daily routines?
What is Environmental Education? The dictionary defines Environmental Education as a multi-disciplinary field integrating disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, earth science, atmospheric science, mathematics, and geography. Environmental Education is about teaching how natural environments function. Again, VERY big words for our little people.
In my own simple terms, I like to define Environmental Education as teaching and learning about the mysteries of nature. Outdoor Classrooms provide the perfect backdrop for exploring science, math, literacy, technology, engineering, art, and math and so much more.
What does Environmental Education look like in preschool?
Biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, earth science, atmospheric science, mathematics, and geography all look very different in the preschool classroom. Understanding developmentally appropriate practices and how to weave nature experiences into the existing preschool curriculum, daily routines and activities is vitally important.
5 KEY ELEMENTS: Environment Education in the Preschool Classroom
1. SIMPLE EXPERIENCES teach how natural environments function. Example: Take a picture of a tree and observe the same tree throughout each season and document the changes.
2. ONGOING and frequent positive experiences outdoors rather than sporadic and infrequent. Example: Create daily practices and rituals for teaching outdoors.
3. HANDS-ON ACTIVITIES vs. Teaching Activities. Create a purpose for going outdoors. Example: Plant a garden, grow food and make connections.
4. DEMONSTRATE CURIOSITY and wonder because preschoolers connect with feelings more than facts. Example: Follow the child. Add Curiosity Conversations to invite questions for Outdoor Explorations.
5. MODEL CARE AND RESPECT and create a community of young Environmental Stewards & Ambassadors. Example: Talk to children about the importance of leadership and taking care of our environment. Read stories about environmental leaders.
Understand your WHY.
Environmental Education an important part of the preschool because…
- American children ages 3 -12 spend 27 percent of their time each week watching television, and only 1 percent outdoors (Hofferth & Sadberg, 2001)
- Children ages 8 – 18 engaged in over seven hours of media time (e.g., watching TV, listening to music, using the Internet/computer, playing video games) each day (Rideout, Foehr & Roberts, 2010)
- Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of U.S. children and adolescents aged 2—19 years were obese in 2008 (Ogden & Carroll, 2010)
- In 2000 two-thirds of the public failed a basic environmental quiz and 88 percent failed a basic energy quiz (Coyle, 2005)
TAKE ACTION! How can teachers get started and make Environmental Education part of the daily routines?
The easiest way to get started is to simply plant a seed. Start before you are ready, cultivate your ideas and Dig Deeper with Knowledge. Here are 3 steps you can take NOW!
STEP One: Find Your Community: Join Outdoor-Classrooms.com
STEP Two: Invite Curiosity Conversations: Create a Map of Intention
STEP Three: Dig Deeper with Knowledge: Sign up for an Outdoor Classrooms Master Class
Now it’s time to hear from you. What is your definition of Environmental Education? How does your preschool classroom infuse Environmental Education into the daily routines? What does it look like in your classroom?
Join the conversation with our Outdoor-Classrooms Facebook Group.
Want to dig deeper? Check out the Outdoor-Classrooms Summit and learn from 8 leaders from the nature-based movement. Sign Up Today!