Teaching Children About the Natural World

By Cynthia Bee, Conservation Garden Park

How connected are the children in your life to their local environment? Do they know where their food comes from? How it grows, who picks it and the process that brings the food to our home tables? Have they experienced the miracle of a sprouting seed, a hatching egg or the emergence of a butterfly? Have you taught them to really SEE the natural world and appreciate the beauty? Summer offers the perfect opportunity to do exactly that!

Perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of engaging with children is the chance to show them the wonders of this world– even if those wonders are simply hiding in your own backyard. As electronic devices continue to consume more and more time and mental energies (and not just for kids), it’s more important than ever to get outside, get involved and stay engaged in the natural world! Below are some of our favorite ways to foster a love of nature in the next generation:

Bug’s Eye View– See your same landscape with new eyes. Take a bug’s eye tour of your backyard. Ask kids to pretend they are a caterpillar or a bumblebee or a grasshopper and determine what resources to look for to keep living a happy bug’s life. Which bugs are beneficial to people and plants?

Rock Hounding– Whether you decide to paint a few rocks an interesting color then challenge kids to find them or look for the real thing, rock hounding can be a great way to break up summer boredom.

Pressing Flowers– Go ahead, pick a few of those pretty flowers! Then teach kids how to press them between wax paper sheets in old books. As the flowers dry, you’ll have the opportunity to teach them how plants work. Finish the activity a few days later by creating art work with the prepared flowers.

Bees, Please– Two out of every three items on your dinner table are there because of the work of our ever-decreasing population of bees. Ask your kids to identify which items may be impacted by pollinators and challenge them to think about how it works.

Children’s Garden– Help our kids learn the basic human skills of cultivation by giving them their own bit of earth to experiment with. Whether you grow a sunflower patch or the veggies they like to eat, participating in the process connects kids to nature.

Of course, if you’d rather not have to come up with all the ideas, bring the kids to Conservation Garden Park to observe nature up close and personal. We offer low-cost kids classes all season in the Garden, you might even learn a bit yourself! Admission to the Garden is always free. To see available classes and events, check out http://conservationgardenpark.org/events.

Preparing the youngest generation to assume the stewardship of the planet may be serious business but learning how to care for the earth can be a whole lot of fun!