- Come away, O human child!
- To the waters and the wild
- With a faery, hand in hand,
- For the world's more full of weeping
- than you can understand.
-William Butler Yeats
1. Plant Something
This can be as easy as a planter full of cherry tomatoes. Start small with this one, it doesn't take a large garden to reap the benefits of getting dirty hands and watching something grow. Plants are magical! My own daughter is so excited to eat something that she has grown in the garden. We planted this fairy garden of herbs a couple summers ago. These plants still end up in all sorts of dishes in our home.
2. Take a Hike
Not all those that wander are lost! I am lucky that I live in the southwest in beautiful country. A few hours from Phoenix and you find yourself in the blissful forests of Flagstaff. Taking a hike is not only good exercise for kids but it surrounds them with earth's grandeur. When my brother and I were young our parents told us that we could hike anywhere we wanted within site of our camp. What freedom that was! We got to know the outdoors on our terms. This set the stage for our deep love for the earth and probably my geology degree! Hiking is a must do for children.
3. Visit a National or State Park
It is always amazing to me how many children in my classroom in Phoenix tell me they have not visited the Grand Canyon when it's a few hours up the road! These are places that have been set aside for their spectacular scenery and earth history. Most of my fondest memories of childhood were of time spent in a national park. The United States boasts some of the most extraordinary natural settings in the world. Get out there and use them! Your kids will thank you!
If you are lucky enough to have one of these in your area definitely visit. These places usually have wonderful hands on activities and exhibits. Many teach children about threatened or endangered animals and teach kids to pay attention to animals in their environment. We have a butterfly sanctuary near our home. I like to visit because it is a real "zen" moment with butterflies the size of your hand fluttering around. They have a great film on the monarch butterfly and why it is decreasing in number as well.
5. Get Involved in Conservation
You undoubtedly build a future for our planet if your kids understand that animals are vulnerable because of our activities. There are probably many groups in your area that work to conserve animals and their habitats. In the Phoenix metropolitan area we have threatened burrowing owls. These owls live underground in burrows usually made by a rodent of some kind. I have also seen them in storm drains and irrigation ditches. The are threatened by urban sprawl and anything that may cover their burrow. Working to relocated and build new homes for these birds is something my seventh graders do as a part of our ecology unit. They work very hard to build something that is very important to this tiny bird. They look at their roll as stewards of the earth very differently after this project.
Finally, to understand the benefits of getting children into nature please read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. It is a wonderful book that really describes the difference between today's plugged in child and children of the past and what we can do about it.