George Lucas Educational Foundation

First Comes Love... Earth Love

First Comes Love... Earth Love

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David Sobel, a colleague of mine at Antioch University New England, is fond of saying that we have to teach children to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.

Educating for sustainability, the Green Schools movement, nature-based early childhood education--all seem to share the old belief that every day should be Earth Day, but my quick review of the materials available to kids seems to fall more towards a "scared straight" view of environmental education. Polar Bears stranded on floating ice, rising sea levels, tropical storms, rapid extinction--it's enough to scare a kid straight, alright. Straight inside. (I think that's why David also tells us "No tragedy before 3rd grade," but I digress.)

I wonder, though, how much time do we spend helping our kids fall in love with nature by letting them be out *in* it? Attendance at AUNE's annual Forest Kindergarten conference tells me that the idea of letting kids get up close and personal with the natural world somehow resonates with all of us, but how do we balance that with the reality of testing? Not to mention the liability.

So, tell me Edutopians, how do you help kids to love the Earth--or at least get their hands dirty? What are you planning for Earth Day? What keeps you (and your kids) inside and how can you help each other overcome those obstacles? Spring is coming!

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Too often we wait for the "perfect" day...but why? Dressed appropriately, kids can play in any weather (minus some extremes). I love schools that tell you to be sure to always dress your child appropriately, as they WILL be going outside each day.

In our house, we try to make a conscious effort to go out daily, be it to play in the backyard, at the park, walk and explore the arboretum, or play a outdoor sport together. But there is nothing better sometimes than simply watching my kids build a snow fort or sand castle, play in a puddle or find the bugs that I simply ask aren't brought into the house.

For those stubborn moments when all a child wants to do is stay inside...having a friend or family member to play with outside can make a world of difference.

These experiences help them appreciate all the the Earth offers them....and SO much more.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI

Want to generate curiosity and wonder about nature among students? I've found that microscopes help! See:

Kids, like most people, walk right by amazing things every day that they just take for granted. Inexpensive computer microscopes (even magnifying glasses) bring a whole new appreciation for common things like seeds, flowers and grass. They're easy to use and the kids are in control of the learning. Here in the northeast, where it's been a particularly brutal winter, we are ALL looking forward to the warmer weather that will make outdoor excursions easier and enjoyable.

That said, this week, we have classes of third graders heading off for a day of orienteering at a local county park. They use compasses, GPS's and maps. It's a great event - they will be chilly today though!

In short - do whatever you can to get OUT of the classroom, even if it's in a small way - put the kids in an environment where they can explore - then, step aside! :)


Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Thanks Kevin and Gwen! I agree that anything we can do to get them out in any weather- even if it's just a few minutes- can be a win. There's something amazing about turning over rocks to see what crawls out, isn't there?

momof2's picture
parent of 2 in changing times south africa

We are extremely fotunate with our wonderful climate in South Africa. Most of our children have the opportunity to get in touch with the outdoors. I loved spending time collecting and planting seeds with my children, examining the worms and bugs in the compost and helping them to understand the fundamentals of nature and life. In my opinion these are life's true lessons.

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