Why environmental education is important to children
The term natural deficit disorder was coined by author Richard Louv to describe people spending more time indoors instead of spending time in nature. Childhood obesity, reduced feelings and inattention are just some of the problems our children face when they don’t have enough time outdoors.
Spending time with nature makes our children more active and focused, but when we teach them environmental education, they can learn more than just a love of the outdoors.
What is environmental education?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) not only promotes nature, but also defines environmental education as "a process that allows individuals to explore environmental problems, participate in solving problems, and take actions to improve the environment."
Encourage children to research and investigate how and why things happened, and to form their own opinions on complex issues, rather than just being informed. Environmental education promotes critical and creative thinking skills and motivates children to participate more in community activities. It can help children understand why the environment is important and provide them with the cornerstones they need to lead an environmentally friendly and sustainable life.
Rubicon’s annual Trick or Trash™ Halloween recycling event combines the recycling of candy wrappers with children’s long-term recycling awareness. Every year we produce educational materials to bring the importance of recycling and waste transfer to life, and at the same time introduce the concept of "circular economy", which is an important evolution of today's mainstream "recycling-manufacturing-waste" production model.
Here are four reasons why environmental education is important to children:
1) Nature nourishes and instills passion for the environment
Spending time outdoors will make you care more about the environment. Caring more about the environment will make you want to spend more time outside. Although not completely synonymous, environmental education and outdoor education are closely related, and both help to improve our children's lives and environment.
Nature will have a profound impact on the physical and mental health of our children. Nature can bring health and well-being in just two hours a week. Introducing outdoor activities to children can also improve academic performance, reduce stress levels, improve social skills, and so on.
Nature provides children with the freedom to be children. Children explore, run, shout and laugh; they jump over puddles and climb trees; they invent games and fictional worlds. These activities allow children to take risks, discover things, ask questions and experiment. This kind of self-expression is very valuable to their development, allowing children to discover themselves while interacting with the natural environment.
This interaction instills a love for nature and inspires children to do their part to give back to the environment that has done a lot for them.
2) Encourage children to develop sustainable habits
Teaching our children about the environment can help them develop sustainable habits that they may stick to when they grow up. Over time, even small actions can have a big impact. Some simple sustainable habits can be performed at any age:
Recycling Bring reusable bags to the store Turn off the water when brushing your teeth Turn off the lights when not in use Use reusable water bottles
Lead by example and make sure your child understands why each of these actions is important. Take a moment to explain that turning off the lights not only saves energy, but also improves air quality by limiting the amount of work that must be done by air-polluting power plants. Explain how the entire life cycle of plastic bottles uses a lot of fossil fuels that contribute to climate change, and how your reusable bottles keep plastics away from landfills and drive us toward a circular economy.
Children with this knowledge are more likely to think about how their behavior affects the environment and think about how to make a positive impact.
3) Cultivate environmentally friendly consumers
According to a 2018 Nielsen survey, nearly half of American consumers said they “may change what they buy to meet environmental standards.” We can use this opportunity to educate our children about the sustainability of the market.
Children often imitate the consumption habits of their parents, so please set a good example:
Companies that support sustainable development use energy-saving appliances, stop using disposable plastics, buy natural and environmentally friendly cleaning products, and avoid fast fashion
Likewise, make sure that your children understand why their purchasing decisions affect the environment. Teach them how to be like light bulbs and how energy-saving appliances protect the environment by saving energy and burning less fossil fuels, which release harmful greenhouse gases into the air.
You and your child can search EPA's Safer Choice website together to find environmentally friendly products that contain ingredients that are safer for our health and the environment.
4) Educate the next generation of environmental advocates
It is now clear that unless we do our part to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly life, climate change will continue to have catastrophic effects. Climate change requires a long-term solution-it will not be resolved overnight.
The wealth of educational resources available online makes it easier than ever for your child to integrate into the environment.
EPA provides learning and teaching resources for students and teachers, including lesson plans, community service project ideas, and homework help. They also support the National Environmental Education and Training Program (NEETP), which provides long-term support for educational professionals to improve their ability to teach environmental issues.
The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) also provides useful resources, including infographics, activity guides, and even a series of applications that can bring environmental education to your mobile device.The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) hopes to inspire future environmental managers through their educational resource page. Their website also includes a website designed for children, offering games, jokes, fun activities, and information designed to make children interested in wildlife. We are proud to be cooperating with the National Wildlife Federation in our third year of "Trick or Treat" campaign, which will begin in September this year. Their team of educators has been an integral part of the development of the K-8 "Trick or Treat" course. This year, we will also expand our educational resources to high schools and university campuses. On this Halloween, you can help prevent candy wrappers from entering the landfill by involving teachers or small independent businesses in the 2021 "Trick or Treat" event, and inspire lifelong recycling for children and young people! Learn more here.
Early environmental education can help our children develop curiosity and enthusiasm for nature, climate change, environmental issues and protecting the earth. By encouraging this enthusiasm at an early age, we have a better opportunity to train a generation of lifelong environmental advocates who will continue to lead a sustainable life until they reach adulthood.
Katie Kinnear is Rubicon’s Director of Participation Strategies and was the inspiration for creating trick-or-treating activities. In order to stay ahead of the new global partnerships and cooperation announced by Rubicon, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us immediately.