Raising "Green" Kids
Teach Your Children About the Environment!
There has been
recent debate on the best way for parents and educators to
teach children about the environment. Many people feel that
the environmental information that children get on
television or in schools is biased either by activists who
scare children with "gloom and doom" stories or by companies
who are trying to downplay the effects of pollution in our
environment. To the average parent, finding accurate,
balanced environmental information for children can
sometimes be quite a challenge.
While this debate continues, there are some simple ways that
parents can help children understand the importance of the
environment. Petey Giroux is the Project WET program
coordinator for the state of Georgia and the former Georgia
PTA environmental education chair. She feels that the most
important thing you can do to teach your child about the
environment is to provide opportunities outdoors. "In my
case I believe it was the exposure I had to the natural
world at a young age. My family lived in suburbia, but the
garden was part of my father's past and was his passion. As
a young child I planted seeds, watched plants grow, observed
the wildlife that came to nibble, and experienced harvesting
corn and tomatoes for dinner. I was making direct
connections with the natural world and forming a
relationship at a young age."
Petey feels that
children spend too much time indoors in front of televisions
or computers. "Today our children are growing up with
screens that provide their entertainment and they spend very
little time outdoors. When I ask students today where their
water comes from, they often say the store or the faucet
because they have no connection to the river." She believes
the key to solving many of our environmental problems is to
get children experiencing the earth at an early age. "It is
difficult to pollute or harm what we understand and that
with which we have formed a relationship."
Take the green lead
One of the best ways to teach your children to care about
and respect their environment is to be a good role model. If
you show enthusiasm and respect for wildlife and nature,
your child will follow the lead.
So what can parents
do to help educate their children about the environment?
Here are some suggestions:
learning at home. As a family, plant a garden or a tree and
watch it grow. Visit a neighborhood or community garden plot
to learn about how other families grow their own vegetables
and flowers. Build a birdhouse or bird feeder for your
backyard. Have children collect backyard flowers and leaves
to create nature bouquets or pressed-flower pictures.
Take a weekend
adventure to a state or national park. Go for a hike, take a
canoe trip, or visit a state park or nature center. Spend
time talking with your children about the plants and animals
they see. Have them draw pictures or take photographs of the
things they see or experience on your weekend outing. Check
out books from your local library to read with your children
on local plants and animal life.
Take part in
community "green" activities. Take part in community
recycling programs or volunteer a few hours of family time
to help clean up a local park or beach.
Work with your PTA to develop outdoor learning
centers in your community or on school grounds. You can
create a discovery trail, a butterfly garden, a sundial, or
a weather station.