As we enter into Spring–even if there is still snow on the ground–our thoughts naturally turn to the outdoors: green grass, sprouting daffodils, the return of the robins and other songbirds, and mud puddles through which the kids love to stomp. How appropriate, then, that April is Environmental Education Month! And to help school us about the environment, we are going back to learning our ABC’s.
A is for Awareness and Action. The first step to make kids more aware of their environment is pretty easy–GO OUTSIDE! How can they be encouraged to nourish and nurture the environment if they never spend time in it? Read a book in the shade of your favorite tree in the yard. Take a family walk at Grassy Pond or join a guided hike at various trails with the folks from Westford Conservation Trust. Rake leaves together. Sketch an outdoor scene. Put out a blanket, lie back, and listen to the birds singing their Spring songs or see what shapes are in the passing clouds. Whatever it is that you choose to do, children will learn to appreciate nature more when they spend time outdoors in it!
Once their awareness is raised, brainstorm some ideas of ways to take action to help the environment. Read Hoot, Where Once There Was a Wood, or Earth Book for Kids or watch The Lorax or for ideas on how other kids stood up for the environment. Research environmental issues online to stimulate conversations and learning. Some great starting points are: EPA Students for the Environment, Kids Planet, and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Set an example at home about your own personal commitment to the environment by monitoring water usage, using flourescent light bulbs, recycling, and cleaning up litter in the community. Work together to take action on an environmental project and make sure it’s ongoing, as environmental issues are ongoing as well.
B is for Birds, Bees, and Butterflies. Encourage your children to spend time in nature and take care of it! Get your hands dirty by tending a garden, planting a tree, and composting together (for a great list of composting items, click here). Hang bird feeders and houses to invite feathered friends to your yard. Design a wildlife habitat with these ideas from the National Wildlife Federation. Keep a journal–photo or written–to document natural events in the world, like when the first tree buds appear or when the last leaf falls from that same tree. Your children will love these first hand nature experiences that will nurture an appreciation for the cycles of life on Earth.
C is for Caring for and Conserving our Classroom Earth. Nature wastes nothing, so why should people? Make your kids aware of their carbon footprints so that they can strive to make it smaller. Have your children carry a grocery bag around for the day and instruct them to collect all their trash for the day in it. At the end of the day, see how much has been collected–did they have any idea that they consumed so much? Also, sort through the trash (with gloves, if necessary) and see what can be recycled, composted, or reused (think plastic baggies). Find ways to conserve energy, water, and materials at home–turn the lights off when you leave the room, limit shower time, use the back of paper for drawing or printing on the other side, use linen hand towels instead of paper towels, and set up a rain barrel or water collection system. Instead of buying new toys and books, arrange for a swap with other families, borrow items from the library, and donate some to others for their use.
Remember, working with your children to help the Earth can be as easy as A, B, C!