Environmental Education for Kids
Begin environmental education for kids as early as possible. Children's attitudes toward living things develop at a young age and they will imitate the attitudes and actions toward caring for the environment that you model for them.
Children are full of wonder and curiosity about things you bring into the classroom, whether they are butterfly eggs or sow bugs. Young children need to learn about nature through real interactions with it.
Environmental education for kids - How do I teach it?
Many kids have few opportunities to experience nature. As you model excitement about nature and caring for the environment, they will become enthusiastic also.
Don't try to teach the big picture. Choose one small aspect of the environment such as worms, slugs, squirrels, or bugs. You are teaching attitudes, responsibility, and caring for the environment through the study of one feature of it.
Environmental education for kids - How do I make it part of my classroom routines?
As much as possible bring living creatures and plants into the classroom. Young students will connect to the natural environment as they have regular interaction with bugs, tadpoles, spiders, slugs and more. Model respect and proper care of living creatures and your students will follow your example.
As mentioned in "Teaching science" , be sure to emphasize to the children, how to respect and treat living creatures when studying them. Tapping on bug bottles, shaking the containers, leaving living things in the hot sun, etcetera should all be discouraged. Teach the "Four Ls of learning about living creatures,"
- Look at them
- Learn about them
- Let them go
- Leave them alone.
After studying the animals make a big deal of letting them go back into their natural environment. Have a special field trip to the pond where the tadpole eggs came from or a "Release the Butterflies" day when they are ready. Emphasize how important it is that they go back to their original homes.
Teach the children to have empathy for living creatures
Role play having the roof ripped off your classroom and a big hand reaching down to pick you up. How would you feel? What if someone put you in a jar and shook it? What if someone lifted your house up and then threw it aside? Teach the children that if they move a log to look under it for insects, to carefully put it back in the same place.
Organize for environmental studies
Many teachers I talk to are overwhelmed at introducing anything alive into their classroom except for perhaps a hamster or fish. If you have a science observation center set up in your classroom and equipment easily on hand, it is more practical to set up an environmental study in your classroom.
- one or two large restaurant size glass gallon jars
- an empty aquarium about 20 inches long
- fine mesh wire to make lids for the aquarium and jars
- a shelf for the aquarium where kids can view it from at least three sides
- brackets to screw into the top of the shelf around the aquarium to keep it from tipping
- brackets to secure the shelf to the wall
Set up in the science observation center:
- animals to observe
- magnifying glasses
- books about the creatures in the aquarium
- recording booklets, nature journals, pencils, crayons, markers
- craft material to make 3D representations of what is observed
Environmental education for kids - A Year Overview
In my classroom, the students learn about care and respect for living creatures starting in September. Learning about, and caring for animals and plants are a regular part of classroom routines. Page 4 offers a list of yearly ideas.
Go on field trips
Throughout the year, include as many field trips outside as possible. Our local parks offer many in the forests and beaches around Vancouver Island.
Model bug friendly behavior
I have had students who were in my class in kindergarten visit regularly all through their elementary school years to visit the class "wildlife".
How you react to finding a spider or wasp in your classroom will also have an influence on how your students react. As part of teaching environmental education for kids, smile, look delighted and say,"Oh that's our friend, Charlie, did he come in for a visit again?" Then model care and respect when removing the insect from the room. Young children become curious and quickly model your behaviors.
Teach the children to be observant
Rather than focusing on teaching the proper names of pond creatures for instance, let the students observe for themselves and record what they notice about the creatures. Let them name the creatures based on their own observations, "Red dot bug" and "Candy stripe bug" are fine to begin with. Teaching correct creature names too early can inhibit further observation. Given a few weeks of observing a tank of pond water and with prompting, the children notice more and more details about the creatures. "Sample observation lesson...
When teaching environmental education for kids, supply the students with plenty of materials to make observation booklets such as "My Pond Book" etc.
Environmental education for kids - Get them outside!
Also get the students outside as much as possible when teaching environmental education to kids. There are so many opportunities for teaching literacy, math, science, and more from the outdoors.
Growing an edible children's garden gets kids excited about the environment too. Burpee seeds offer a great variety of vegetable and flower seeds as well as gardening supplies.
Encourage students to notice the habitat that specific insects choose to live in. Do sow bugs like it dry or moist? The worms come to the surface when it rains. Why?
Environmental education pages:
Environmental education activities skills list
Free science worksheets
Green kids and Earth Day
What is Earth Day about?
Leaf rubbing planet Earth - art activity
Pressed plants art activity
Easter Science Activity
Outdoor ed. degree
Recycling for kids - Part 1
Recyling for kids - Part 2
Science books for children
Tree Seedling Experiments
Year long environmental activity ideas
Earth Day toys and resources
In Social Studies Section: The Food Chain