Children are inherently inquisitive. And while it’s a quality that saps the energy of parents across the globe, the COVID-19 lockdowns provide a golden opportunity to connect youngsters with the joys of the natural world. It’ll give you an excuse to send them outdoors too!
With exploration of the natural world coming so naturally to them, combined with the fact that children are instinctively drawn to nature and animals (especially the cute, cuddly kind), now is the perfect time to utilise the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the innovations it presents to not only teach children about nature, but to begin entrenching the value of conservation and the preservation of the world’s natural resources.
“Environmental education is important for everyone as it raises awareness of issues in the natural and built environment,” says Justin Smith, of the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa. “It also provides an opportunity for children to acquire creative problem-solving skills to address these issues, and become powerful advocates of change.”
So how exactly should we go about it? Read on for some fun and easy suggestions.
Create a connection
The majority of children are disconnected from nature, and so blissfully unaware of the damage some of their daily actions cause to the planet – like the use of energy at home and while travelling, what they eat and how they dispose of waste, says the New York Times. Environmental education offers an alternative to the plugged-in lives to which we’ve become accustomed, but by connecting our children with nature, they’re much more likely to want to protect it. Encourage your children to go outdoors and get active. This not only addresses health concerns, such as obesity and depression, but also ensures they become more physically active and creative, so building a connection with the outdoors. According to Planet Learning Tree, environmental education also provides a platform for children to learn the skills required for the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), so you’re also setting them up for the future.
Engagement engenders respect
Getting younger children excited about nature is easy, and there are plenty of ways to encourage them to participate in outdoor activities. Natural Habitat Adventures suggests you start with a walk around your neighbourhood to chat about the local plant and animal species, take them camping, or plant a garden. Use the technologies they love to drive home the importance of looking after nature. oFr example, watch a documentary on birds together, or find a fun online game that teaches them how they can help protect the environment. By teaching children to be respectful of the planet, we’re putting the building blocks in place to actively slow down some of the many threats to our planet.
Show them how to make a difference
Children repeat the actions of the adults around them, so the easiest way to get them to participate in conservation efforts is by setting a good example. Show children that through small everyday actions — at home, at school and with their friends — they can make a big impact. Statistics South Africa reports that only 10% of waste in the country is recycled, and that South Africa is fast running out of landfill space. Use this as motivation to create a dedicated recycling space at home with your children, then show them how to reduce waste and recycle certain materials.
“Environmental education is not only the domain of teachers. By displaying their own involvement in environmental initiatives, parents not only set a good example for their children, but also help to entrench acceptable behaviour towards our planet,” says Smith.
Pieter Twine, General Manager at MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet, adds: “Conservation education goes a long way to ensuring that wildlife is protected for future generations.
“We are proud to help conservation organisations continue their great work, and you can help too. Joining a community loyalty programme such as MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet allows you and your children to support the causes that play an active role in conserving our world’s natural resources.”
Sign up to MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet for free at www.myschool.co.za or download the App. Each time you swipe your card at a participating retailer, a donation is made to your choice of beneficiaries on your behalf, at no cost to you.