Helping Children Value and Appreciate Nature

Children are naturally curious about their world and enjoy exploring their surroundings. Because of their inquiring minds, children are eager to know why things are the way they are and will ask many questions about their immediate environment. On a recent nature walk children could be heard asking, "I wonder what is under the rocks?" "What is that bird eating?" "Does that flower smell?" and "Why are the ants fighting?" Childhood is the time to encourage and nurture early interests in nature. Integrating nature education into the curriculum teaches children many important concepts, such as aesthetics, respect, caring for the earth, and the interrelationships among humans and the habitat. As the world becomes more populated and polluted, and as some animal and plant life becomes endangered and extinct, the role that we all play in protecting or destroying the earth can be reinforced. Through nature study, children can learn how they affect the environment as well as how the environment affects them. By having rich and varied opportunities to experience and explore nature, children can begin to value and appreciate their immediate world and will hopefully generalize this knowledge to other situations and places.