Conservation and kids: Getting into nature

Our kids are the future and teaching them conservation at a young age will ensure a healthy and vibrant world for them to enjoy as adults.

Teaching conservation to the next generation is important as attitudes about the earth’s natural resources begin at an early age. Awareness of conservation when kids are young will lead them to be proactive adults concerned about the welfare of their environment and the world they live in. It will be the next generation’s responsibility to make choices regarding the resources available to them in the future.

Michigan State University Extension offers the following suggestions for exploring the idea of conservation with young children:

  • Take advantage of teachable moments. When a child shows an interest in something, expand on it. We all earn best when we have an interest in something.
  • Encourage children to be observant and provide opportunities for them to explore with all of their senses. For example: Observe the changes in a lake or any body of water as you drive to school or the grocery store. Is it frozen? Are there boats on the lake? What animals do you see on the water? What does it smell like on a sunny day? Rainy day? What do the waves sound like?
  • Ask open-ended questions to provide the young child an opportunity to engage their thinking process. Starting a phrase with what, why, when, where and how will get the child thinking on their own about the answer versus adults providing them with a solution. You might be surprised at what their answer will be. Why do you think lightening bugs flash? Why do we ride our bikes versus drive our car? The lake is frozen. Where do you think all of the birds went? What are the fish and turtles doing?

All children are ego-centric. It is a typical part of their development. However, when they begin to think about the nature around them through our conversations and their observations, it broadens their horizons to other possibilities. Even a quick discussion about why the bird fell out of the tree or the turtle crossing the road (Where is he going? Why do you think he is crossing the road?) can alter the way they view and care for the outdoor environment.

Click on one of the topics below for more simple ways to study conservation:

Our responsibilities lie with helping children develop positive attitudes towards conservation and nature. Conservation decisions will belong to them in the future. Teaching them at a young age to appreciate and respect nature and the environment is so important. Make it a part of your daily routines and adventures. Remember, it doesn’t have to be an elaborate hike through the woods to be a valuable, learning experience about nature and how they can protect their world now and in the future.

To learn about the positive impact children and families are experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 Impact Reports: “Preparing young children to success” and “Preparing the future generation for success.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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