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Upon completion of this Topic, you should be able to:

1. Explain what is environmental education


2. Discuss why children should learn about the environment
3. Demonstrate several learning activities teaching children
environmental education
4. List ideas for teaching children about ‘earth day’

TOPICS

9.1 What is environmental education?


9.2 What is environmental education for children?
9.3 Objectives of teaching environmental education
9.4 Benefits of teaching environmental education to children
9.5 Environmental principles and values
9.6 Learning activities
9.7 Teaching ‘earth day’
9.8 Important dates

Words You Should Know


Summary
References
9.1 Introduction

Some educators believe that today’s children


spend so much time using the tablet, playing
video games and watching that they lack
experiences connecting to nature (see Figure
7.1). Encouraging children to be “green
kids” begins with providing them with large
amounts of time in natural outdoor settings
where they can play, explore and experience
Figure 7.1 Children spending too natural systems.
much screen time

Children’s appreciation for nature develops


at a young age, so it is important that
environmental education begins as early as
possible. Whether it’s a jar of worms, a few
snails or tadpoles, young children’s eyes light
up when you bring living things into the
classroom (see Figure 9.2). Children need to
learn about nature through directly
interacting with it rather than colouring or Figure 9.1 Children attracted by
filling in worksheets about nature. what’s in the jar

9.2 What is Environmental Education in Early Childhood


Education?

Environmental education in early childhood is a holistic concept that seeks to enhance the
knowledge of children about the natural world, including feelings and emotions towards
the environment; and skills on how to take care of the environment. According to Ruth
Wilson (1994), environmental education in early childhood: (See Figure 7.2).

• Develops in children a sense of wonder


• Enhances children’s appreciation for the beauty and mystery of the natural world
• Creates opportunities for children to be close to nature
• Makes children respect animals.

Close to nature Beauty and mystery of nature Respect for animals

Figure 7.2 Environmental Education in Early Childhood


Education

Therefore, early childhood teachers should provide opportunities for children to


experience peace, joy, and fascination with nature (Gardner, 1999).

9.3 Objectives of Environmental Education to Children

There are FIVE objectives for teaching environmental education to children (see Figure
7.2):

1. Awareness - Create awareness among children so than when they become


teenagers and later adults they will take care of the environment. As the saying
goes, “Children are our Future”.
Figure 7.2 Objectives of
Teaching Environmental
Education to Children

2. Knowledge – Children gain an understanding of the environment and how the


action of humans has created problems for the environment such as throwing
rubbish into drains causes drains to be blocked which causes flooding.
3. Attitudes – Children develop positive attitudes and concern towards the
environment which will influence their behaviour such as not throwing rubbish
into in the drains.
4. Skills – Children develop skills in identifying environmental problems
5. Participation – Children take the initiative and participate in efforts to take
care of the environment such as picking up litter in the school or not using plastic
bags

1. Do you agree that children spend too much time indoors and so not
spend enough time outdoors?
2. What do you mean by ‘green kids’?
3. What is environmental education?
4. What is environmental education in early childhood education?
9.4 Benefits of Environmental Education

The following are some of the benefits of environmental education when children are taken
out to interact with the natural surrounding:

• Several research studies show a positive links between direct experiences with
nature and children’s mental and emotional well-being such as self-esteem and
resilience against stress.

• Research also suggest that children who are provided with opportunities to interact
with nature develop a love for nature and demonstrate responsible environmental
behaviour.

the Indoor

• Children who are exposed to nature develop a love for the outdoors which helps
break the indoor habit; i.e. always wanting to stay indoors and afraid to spend time
outside.

• Environmental education sparks the imagination and unlocks creativity in


children.

• Environmental education makes children more enthusiastic and engaged in


learning, which raises achievement in other subjects.

• Environmental education emphasises skills essential for succeeding in the 21st


century, such as questioning, investigating, defining problems, analysing,
interpreting, reasoning, developing conclusions, and solving problems.

• Environmental education encourages children to research, investigate how and


why things happen, and make their own decisions about complex
environmental issues.
9.5 Environmental Principles and Values

The following are principles and values that should inculcated and developed in children to
understand, care and love the environment.

• The Principle of Humility - The earth does not belong to us, human beings but we
are part of the earth and nature (at least our physical body is part of nature).

• The Principle of Cooperation - Our role is to understand nature and to work and
live harmoniously with it, and not to capture or colonise it.

• The Principle of Respecting Nature or Mother Earth - All species have the right
to live or at least fight for life, because they are also creatures made by God. Their
rights do not depend on whether the species are 'useful' or not to humans.

• The Principle of a Balanced Life - The best things in life are not only material, but
happiness also needs to be taken into consideration.

• The Principles of the importance of the Sustainability of the Ecosystem - An


action is considered good when it maintains the integrity of the ecology, the
continuity and diversity of systems that support life on Earth for us and other living
things and is considered bad when it does the opposite.

• The Principle of Maintaining Wildlife and The Living Diversity or Biodiversity


- It is a mistake for humans to cause the extinction of any wild species and to
eradicate and degrade their habitat.

• The Minimum Damage Principle - When we are forced to make changes to Nature
or Earth to meet our needs, we must choose ways that will cause minimal damage.

• The Principle of Continuous Change - If we want to make changes to Nature or


Earth, we must follow the rate and the way that suits Nature or Earth

• The economic principle is not everything - It is incorrectly considered human and


living things to have no value other than economic value.

• Principles of Recognizing the Rights of the Unborn or Upcoming Generation


Rights - We have to leave Earth in the same condition if not even better.

• Principles of Responsibility of Each Individual - Everyone must be responsible


for the environmental pollution and degradation caused by them. Disposing of
pollutants in other people’s area is like we are poisoning the people who live in that
place.

• Principle of Simplicity - No individual, corporate body or state has unlimited rights


to our earth’s limited resources, do not let the needs of the people change for profit
importance alone.

• Principles of Ecosystem Protection and Restoration - We must protect the


wildlife ecosystem and rectify all that has been damaged.

• The Ethics Principles That Exceed the Law - In protecting and ensuring the
existence of Nature or Earth, do more than what is required by law.

• The Principles of Experiencing and Appreciating the Best of Nature - Love


Nature or Earth by experiencing and enjoying the fresh air, clear and clean water,
good soil, plants and animals.

• Principles of Loving the Environment - Get to know our environment.

1. Discuss the benefits of environmental education.


2. Do you agree with the above benefits?
3. What is meant by the ‘principle of humility’?
4. What is meant by the ‘principle of sustainability of the ecosystem’?
5. What is meant by the ‘economic principle’?
6. What is meant by the ‘principle of loving the environment’?
9.6 Learning Activties for Teaching Environmental Education to
Children
The children of today will need to be the environmentalists of tomorrow. Yet nature does
not come naturally to many kids today, and this is where environmental education comes
in. There are many ways for teachers and parents to teach children the value of our natural
environment and why it needs to be preserved.

Get outside! - Outdoor Activities

It’s easy for kids to spend the day indoors glued to the T.V., computer, or their video game
console, and children who grow up in cities have less chance of interacting with the natural
world even when they go outside. But getting out into nature teaches kids the value of the
environment.

When children have the opportunity to be outside, they’ll investigate, ask questions,
and explore without teacher led experiences. There are many opportunities
for developing literacy, mathematics and science skills when kids are
outdoors. Encourage students to notice the habitat that specific insects choose to live
in.

• The worms come to the surface when it rains. Why?


• Where do the ants come from?
• Are there different types of ants?

Teach the children to be observant. Let the students observe for themselves and
record what they notice about the creatures. Do not force children to give the exact
names of the plants or animals they see. Let them use whatever name they are familiar
with. Teacher can prompt children to for more details about what they are observing.
Teacher could provide children with a checklist with what plants and animals to observe.
Provide magnifying glasses and storage jars or boxes. Provide craft material, pencils and
crayons to make 3D representations of what is observe. Make available in the classroom
books and pictures about the plants and animals they observe outside.

Projects

When kids take part in projects that strengthen their connection to the environment, they
learn hands-on that they can make a difference. Making something new from recycled items
– such as crayons or old cloth – or environmental science experiments and science fair
projects are just a few ideas.
Games

Children Love Games! Why not make some of them environmentally focused? Sports are
a great way to get kids outdoors, and scavenger hunts can include natural trivia.

• For a simple game, show children pictures of both


good and bad things for the environment.
o Negative environment pictures could
include an oil spill, chemicals or lights left
on when no one is around.
o Positive environment pictures might
include someone recycling, lights shut off or
people walking instead of driving. Have children sort out the pictures into
things you should and shouldn't do to help the environment.

• Collect pictures of different ecosystems like a pond, ocean, farm and forest. Have
children sort different items that would go in each ecosystem. For example,
squirrels, trees and flowers might go in the forest ecosystem.

Stories

Stories are a powerful way to instill morals and inspire. There are a number of stories for
kids that keep environmental morals in mind and a collection that were written with the
specific intention of teaching children to be eco-conscious.

Love for Animals

Valerie Andrews writes in A Passion for this Earth,

“As a child, one has that magical capacity…to see


the land as an animal does; to experience the sky
from the perspective of a flower or a bee…to know
a hundred different smells of mud and listen
unselfconsciously to the sound of the trees.”
Children’s love for animals seems to come naturally, but giving them more chance to
interact with animals is another way to strengthen their connection to the natural world.
Putting this interaction into context with information on endangered species and animals’
connection to their delicate habitats will give these species a chance to thrive far into the
future.

Teach children to have Empathy for living creatures

Role play having the roof ripped off your classroom and a big hand reaching down to
pick you up. How would you feel? What if someone put you in a jar and shook it?
What if someone lifted your house up and then threw it aside? Show your
students children how to carefully put a wood back in the same place if they move it
to look for insects.

For example, how the teacher react to a spider or wasp in your


classroom will also have an influence on how your students react. As
part of teaching environmental education for kids, smile, look
delighted and say, “Oh that’s our friend, Charlie, did he come in for
a visit again?”

Neighbourhood Clean-up

This preschool environment activity requires you to get your hands a little dirty, but it's all
for a good cause. Organizing a neighbourhood clean-up day makes the area look nicer while
giving you the chance to talk to children about litter and pollution. If you know other
families in the neighbourhood, get them involved in cleaning up the outdoor space. Gloves
protect your child's hands from slimy goo while picking up the trash. Better yet, pick up a
few trash picker tools so you don't have to touch the trash. Supervise your little ones closely
so they do not grab something sharp or dangerous.

Gardening and Composting

A backyard garden is a small way to help the environment and teach children about how
things grow. The garden shows the importance of clean water and soil. You can also teach
about how our activities impact the environment. Choose the plants that go in the garden
with children so that they feel like it's their garden. A compost bin complements the garden
and helps out the environment. By putting waste and kitchen scraps in your compost bin,
children learn how to reduce waste and turn it into something beneficial.

Recycling Crafts

All those recyclables sitting in the garage waiting to go to the recycling centre hold the
potential to become cool craft projects for children. For an open-ended craft project, lay out
a bunch of materials and let him make their own 3D creation. For example, they might
make a car out of an old cardboard box or a robot from some recycled aluminium foil and
tin cans. Empty jars can hold craft supplies or toys. Paint them before stashing treasures in
them. Transform old food containers into homemade instruments. Some containers make
ideal drums, while children can fill some containers with rice to create a maracas.

Focus on one small part of the environment

Many kids have had few opportunities to experience nature. As you model excitement about
nature and caring for the environment, your children will become enthusiastic also. Choose
one small aspect of the environment such as worms or insects. Children become aware of
attitudes, responsibility, and caring for the environment through the study of one small
section of it. A worm, rather than the whole forest.

Bring living creature and plants to class

As much as possible bring living creatures and plants into the classroom. Children will
connect to the natural environment as they have regular interactions with tadpoles, spiders,
praying mantis and more. Model respect and proper care of living creatures and children
will follow your example. Emphasize to children how to respect and treat living creatures
when studying them. Tapping on bug bottles or shaking the containers should all be
discouraged.

Teach the “Four Ls of learning about living creatures”

1. Look at them
2. Learn about them
3. Let them go
4. Leave them alone.

After studying the animals make a big deal of letting them go back into their natural
environment. Have a special field trip to the pond where the tadpole eggs came from or a
“Release the Butterflies” day. Emphasize how important it is that the animals go back to
their original homes.
1. Explain games can be used to teach environmental education to children.
2. How do you teach children to care for animals?
3. How does gardening help teach environmental education to children?
4. Explain the Four Ls.
5. Explain how outdoor activities can be used to teach environmental education
to children.

9.7 Teaching Children about ‘Earth Day’

Some educators believe that today’s children spend so much time in front of screens
that they lack experiences connecting to nature. Encouraging children to be “green
kids” begins with providing them with large amounts of time in natural outdoor
settings where they can play, explore and experience natural systems. Exploring the
natural environment promotes curiosity, self-confidence, and creative thinking.
Children today often need help to feel connected with nature. Unstructured time to
play outdoors, games, bird watching, nature hikes, and walking in the park all make it
easier for children begin a life-long appreciation of the outdoors.

GREEN KIDS CELEBRATE EARTH DAY

• Introduce Earth Day with a globe.


• Let the children know that Earth Day was
started about 30 years ago to make people aware
of the importance of keeping our planet healthy
and clean.
• Place a sticker on the globe to mark where the
children live.
• Talk about the term “green kids” and keeping the Earth “green” and
what that means. Kids learn the meaning of this by participating in
eco-friendly experiences.

Make a class book or poster

Challenge children to think of things they can do in their homes or


classrooms to care for the Earth.
• Have each student draw a picture of something they can do to help
keep the Earth healthy and clean (suggestions below).
• Label each picture.
• Attach each picture to one or two chart paper posters or staple
them into a class book.
• When children complete one of the classroom Earth Day activities
they place an Earth Day sticker next to the picture in the book or
on the chart poster.

Need help coming up with ideas? Try these Suggestions:

1. Save water in the Art Centre

• Children can swish the brushes around in a container of water instead of running
the water to clean them.
• Ask the office staff to save the large poster and advertisement junk mail for
kindergarten easel painting.
• Children explore how differently the paint handles on the backs of the shiny
poster paper.

2. Build recycling responsibility

• Children take turns being recycle monitors.


• They keep an eye on the trash and recycling buckets each day to make sure
that items are placed in the correct places.

3. Help kids become comfortable with nature

• Nature is so foreign to some kids that they are afraid of going for hikes or to
the forest.
• Before going on field trips, help the kids become familiar with nature.
• Put up posters of the forest, of animals and plants.
• Make available binoculars, clipboards, and magnifying glasses.

4. Review the 4Ls of living things on nature walks

• Before actually going on a nature walk, review the 4 Ls of living things.

1. Look at them,
2. Learn about them,
3. Let them go (after an hour or two),
4. Leave them alone.

Role play carefully lifting a rock to see what is underneath and then gently returning
it to the same spot. Model observing and recording observations on a clipboard.
When you do take the kids outside give each one a clipboard to carry. Encourage them
to record some of their observations. To make simple to carry clipboards:

• Place two thick elastic bands around a piece of card.


• Tuck a piece of paper inside on the front and back of the card and tape a string
with a pencil to each one (a parent made me a classroom set).
• Take a few clear plastic bags to bring some items back to the classroom to
study, then emphasise returning the items to the same places you found them.
5. Use reusable products rather than
disposable

• Reduce the amounts of items that go into


the trash by teaching lessons on
packaging.
• Choose products with less packaging
when you shop for classroom supplies and
show the children.
• Make the kids aware of how they are
helping the earth by bringing food in a
reusable container rather than packaged
food.
• Supply real cups (labeled) rather than throw away plastic or foam ones and use
real cloth rags rather than paper towels to clean up paint on tables.
• When kids make green choices bring it to the attention of the other children.

6. Pick up trash

• If your school is in a safe environment, provide gloves and garbage bags and
have children help pick up trash from around the playground.

7. Save electricity

• It makes a nice change to turn the lights


out during snack, lunch times and even
center times if your room has enough
natural lighting.
• It alters the mood and saves power too.
The special helper of the day can be
responsible for this job.

8. Teach children to respect nature

• Your enthusiasm concerning interesting bits of moss, leaves or shells that the
children bring into the room is contagious.
• Have a special place in the room to show off these items.

Help students see themselves as “green”

Help kids notice when they reuse items and encourage them that they are becoming
“green kids”. Comment on the children’s efforts each time they complete a green
activity. If they draw on both sides of their paper, use egg cartons for plant seeds or
milk jugs as bird feeders, if they reuse old office envelopes and papers or cut and glue
pictures from outdated teacher resource catalogues, talk about what they did and how
each little bit helps. Avoid reusing items to make the type of crafts that will j ust be
thrown into the garbage the week after they are made. Help children to feel
empowered, that they can make a difference to the world.

Build a Green Library - Gather books to create a library for green kids and
read the stories throughout the year.

More Ideas for Observing Nature


Using insects in the classroom is a wonderful way to practice learning to observe
respectfully. There are some nature/science stores that sell butterfly kits and ant farms.

While hatching and watching the insects' metamorphosis and growth, the children
can make books, draw pictures, and keep calendars. Discuss what we see as the
changes take place. After you have observed the insects, they can be released, which
further illustrates their right to be in their natural environments. Bye bye butterfly!

Hanging feeders or bird houses in the open space is a wonderful way to attract birds
to your area. Providing nesting materials such as shredded newspaper, hay, or straw
will draw birds to your yard. Watching them provides endless opportunities for
learning about migration, beak types, and species.

Trees and forests are the lungs of our planet. We could not survive without them.
Clear cutting of forests is a worldwide problem. Not only does it destroy habitats and
oxygen-making trees, but it also loosens soils contributing to mud slides and massive
flooding. In and out doors, one can plant almost anything: flowers, vegetables, bulbs,
and trees.
.
On a planet mostly covered by water, it's hard to believe that clean water is becoming
scarce. Water conservation is very important. Learning about the earth's water cycle
can be fun and easy. Condensation and evaporation make a huge circle. There is
neither one more nor one less drop of water in our planet than there was when
dinosaurs roamed. It just makes that circle over and over again. As condensation
becomes too heavy, it falls in the form of snow, ice, rain, or hail. As it falls, some of
it becomes polluted by the dirty air through which it falls; some gets polluted by the
dumping of waste in rivers, which dump into oceans. Everything is connected.
9.8 Important Dates

There are dates dedicated for environmental theme events in order to


promote awareness and foster cooperation among the various stakeholders in
environmental conservation. Some of the events are;
• Environmental • Save water • Neighbourhood clean-
education • Recycle up
• Nature • Earth day • Respect nature
• Sense of wonder • Environmental • Gardening
• Appreciation of beauty Principles • Sustainability
• Indoor habit • Save electricity • Empathy for animals
• Green kids • Games • Dedicated dates
• Outdoors • 4 Ls

Some educators believe that today’s children spend so much time using the tablet,
playing video games and watching that they lack experiences connecting to nature.

Children’s appreciation for nature develops at a young age.

• Children need to learn about nature through directly interacting with it.

• Develops in children a sense of wonder, appreciation for the beauty and mystery, being
close to nature and respect for animals.

FIVE objectives for teaching environmental education to children – awareness,


knowledge, attitudes, skills and participation.

• Research also suggest that children who are provided with opportunities to interact with
nature develop a love for nature and demonstrate responsible environmental behaviour.

• Environmental education sparks the imagination and unlocks creativity in children.

• Teach the “Four Ls of learning about living creatures”.

• Encouraging children to be “green kids” begins with providing them with large
amounts of time in natural outdoor settings where they can play, explore and
experience natural systems.
• Help kids notice when they reuse items and encourage them that they are becoming
“green kids”.

• If your school is in a safe environment, provide gloves and garbage bags and have
children help pick up trash from around the playground.

• Role play carefully lifting a rock to see what is underneath and then gently
returning it to the same spot.

• Challenge children to think of things they can do in their homes or classrooms to care
for the Earth.

• Reduce the amounts of items that go into the trash by teaching lessons on
packaging.

• Nature is so foreign to some kids that they are afraid of going for hikes or to the
forest.

• There are dates dedicated for environmental theme events in order to promote awareness
and foster cooperation among the various stakeholders in environmental conservation.

REFERENCES

Volk, T. L., & Cheak, M. J. (2003). The effects of an environmental education program on
students, parents, and community. Journal of Environmental Education, 34(4), 12–25. 2.

Schneller, J.A., Schofield, C.A., Hollister, E., & Mamuszka, L. (2015). A case study of indoor
garden-based learning with hydroponics and aquaponics: Evaluating pro-environmental
knowledge, perception, and behavior change. Applied Environmental Education and
Communication, 14(4), 256-265. 3.

Blatt, E. N. (2013). Exploring environmental identity and behavioral change in an


environmental science course. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 8(2), 467–488.

Selected Studies on Benefits of Environmental Education. Gray Family Foundation, Storer


Foundation, Pisces Foundation, U.S. EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest
Service.

Phair, C. (2013). Environmental Education for Children. Panchamana Alliance.

Wilson, R. (1996). Environmental Education Programs for Preschool Children. Journal of


Environmental Education, 27, 28-33.
Wilson, R. A. (1996). Starting Early: Environmental Education during the Early Childhood
Years. ERIC Digest

University of Nebraska - Lincoln DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Environmental Studies Undergraduate Student Theses Environmental Studies Program Fall
2014 Nature Center Preschools- A Teaching Tool for Early Childhood Environmental
Education Blair Kalinski University of Nebraska-Lincoln