Developing the Eco Citizens of Tomorrow
How can we create the eco citizens of tomorrow? The next generation of ecologically savvy humans?
Some people are lucky enough to find themselves hooked on nature and all its wonders from an early age. They are the fortunate one who have enjoyed plentiful experiences with nature. Their fascination has developed from this exposure.
It can be just watching insects in the garden that allows a child’s observational skills to flourish. As they grow, more exciting activities such as watching birds and pond dipping can capture their imagination. This will harness their interest in nature. Children can learn just by watching the world, for hours on end. This can even pave the way for a life-long interest in nature and conservation.
Wild, Unstructured Play
Surveys carried out bu Natural England, The National Trust, The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB have all agreed that unstructured play outside is good for children’s development. These opportunities support children’s happines and health in both body and mind.
Adventure and challenges such as building camps, climbing trees and damming streams help children develop their social skills and problem solving abilities.
Forest Schools are a good example of how learner led exploration and discovery activitites can be supported. These experiences are believed to have a lifelong positive impact.
Tech Versus Nature
According the aformentioned surveys, 86% of children prefer to play outside and 72% want to play outdoors more often. This goes against popular thinking that they prefer to be indoors using games consoles or the latest tablet or smartphone.
But children’s access to green spaces has become quite restricted and most unstructured waste ground has now beendeveloped. The average child does not wander very far from home and 33% of 8-10 year olds never play outside without an adult being present. The daily walk to school has also become a thing of rarity.
Inactivity has also helped to fuel an obesity epidemic in young children. 1 in 4 of the U.K. population (adults and kids) who are now classified as technically obese. Heart disease has dramatically increased costing the nation billions of pounds a year to treat. This generation could be the first whose life expectancy is less than their parents (due to a culture of inactivity).
Nature and Wellbeing
The un-judgemental natural world, where you can truly be with your thoughts, is soothing and actually good for your mental health.
Nature activates the senses in positive ways – you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments. In nature we practice an effortless type of attention known as soft fascination that creates feelings of pleasure.
Nature creates a sense of wonder for children that no other environment can provide. The experiencce makes children ask questions about the earth and the life that it supports.
Parents and grandparents can both be huge influencers in supporting their children’s love of an learning about nature.
Taking children to find frogspawn, a bird’s nest or walking through a bluebell wood can all help to develop their wonder and curiosity about the natural world.
Sadly, many parents now days are lacking in their own rudimentary knowledge of nature to pass onto their offspring.
A strong focus on health and safety in today’s blame culture often constructs a barrier that make it impossible for children to enjoy the freedoms that previous generations took for granted. Natural play spaces on school grounds are often non-existent due to fear of liability.
Not only is exercise good for the body but also for the mind, helping make it happier and more focussed. The same is true for both children and adults and good news is that just a simple walk in the park will help. Just making time to notice nature is a good start towards developing another eco citizen.