Children Are The Future Stewards Of Our Natural Resources — So Long As Their Parents Are Right Now
Are parents talking to their children about natural resources and the issues they face? This is a question that has nagged me for some time. I’m not a parent, but I love kids. More specifically, I love what kids bring to the table: innocent hope and brutal honesty. When it comes to some of the issues I hold most dear, namely the management and consumption of our planet’s natural resources, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is my sister talking to my 6-year-old nephew about lowering his carbon footprint?” Probably not. So, I did a bit more digging into whether or not parents discuss topics such as water conservation, land degradation, plastic pollution, etc. with their children. And if not, why? The answers to these questions turned out to be a little more complicated — and harder to find — than I anticipated.
A cursory internet search didn’t exactly yield what I was looking for. However, one thing the internet did press upon me was the great importance of kids spending more time outside among our natural resources, specifically in forests and fields as educational settings. As a former high school teacher, this greatly intrigued me. And as a current writer, I exploited what few connections I have to uncover more answers, which lead me to David Sobel. In case you’re not familiar with Sobel, he is a renowned educator and author who has lectured, consulted, and written books on place-based education and the success of forest kindergartens. Place-based education is a term I was already familiar with having implemented it during my tenure in the classroom. Generally speaking, it’s when educators connect their students and lessons directly to the local environment and communities in which the students live and play. Forest kindergartens, however, was a very new concept to me.
In Sobel’s article, “Outdoor school for all: Reconnecting children to nature,” published in EarthEd: Rethinking Education on a Changing Planet (2017), he notes that outdoor schools and forest kindergartens are quite popular in Europe, particularly Denmark. Roughly 10% of Danish children attend outdoor schools (Sobel, 2017, p. 25). Denmark is not to be outdone, however. Thousands of children are attending outdoor schools in Germany, and the popularity of these schools is…