ARCQE Feb 2021 Blog Post
A sustainable future starts with getting children outside!
By Katherine Kaiser
When you think about your favourite childhood memory, where did it take place? More often than not, our favourite memories took place outside! Think about children today, what would they say is their favourite thing to do? Is it to climb trees? Roll down hills? Explore in nature? Or does technology dominate children’s favourite activities?
As leaders and early childhood educators, we must also be nature advocates and promoters. Children are naturally curious and love exploring outside. Our image of the child is typically one where children are curious, competent, creative, capable, and so much more! However to effectively nurture this innate love and curiosity, children need nature advocates in their life to provide these opportunities for children.
When we think about children’s future, where does nature fit in? When we reflect on the environmental changes we must make as a society, there are simple steps we can take every day to help foster a more sustainable future. We can support a sustainable future, by providing opportunities for children to explore outside every day. Watch Nature Valley: 3 Generations to hear more about children exploring in nature.
Flight, Alberta’s Early Learning and Care Framework speaks to sustainability, as they note that “Children’s affinity to nature, of which they are part, provides a basis for understanding and questioning the place of humankind in nature and for developing the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to contribute to the development of sustainable futures” (Makovichuk et al. 2014, p. 113). The children of today will face challenges in the environment of tomorrow. For one to be truly inspired to make a difference in the environment, one must have a deep love and appreciation for nature. This connection with nature can be instilled, developed and nurtured through educators, families and community stakeholders.
Educators, families and community supports and programs all act as nature advocates and promoters for children. Makovichuk et al. (2014) affirms this when they speak of sustainable futures and that “This learning requires children’s involvement with caring, compassionate, and courageous role models who actively support their first-hand engagement with the natural and constructed world and their participation in environmentally and socially responsible communities” (Makovichuk et al. 2014, p. 113).
To start, get outside and see where the play and exploration takes you. During the closure in March 2020, my daughter and I would take daily walks together around our neighbourhood. On our walk she began to notice holes in the dirt, from there, she saw gophers and connected that they were gopher holes! An inquiry on gophers developed as the two of us would daily see the gophers, find their homes together and even start to hear the sounds they would make as they communicated together. A daily walk can be just that, but you also never know where your experiences will take you. What you see outside can spark children’s interest and wonderment about the world around them.
So you’re outside, what’s next? Start by asking simple open ended questions and scaffolding children’s thinking. If they hear a sound, you don’t necessarily need to reply with what that noise is. Try reframing the question to say, what or who do you think made that sound? Scott D. Sampson (2015) in How to Raise a Wild Child notes that “By turning the question back on them, we crack open a learning opportunity, a chance for them to actively participate in solving a mystery” (p. 86). To build on children’s open ended explorations outside, you can also bring ordinary objects and loose parts to see where the play takes children. Wherever the play and learning ends up taking you, it all starts with taking children outside!
There will need to be big changes that we all must make to help our environment, but we can start today with small everyday choices to instil a love for nature and a mindful approach to consumption and sustainability. Maybe this starts with composting, reusing and repurposing materials, hand towels as opposed to paper towels, reusable diapers, healthy food choices, recycling and more! Sampson (2015) beautifully notes that “If children are to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults, nature needs to be integral to their everyday lives, from place-based learning at school to unstructured, unsupervised, even risk-rose play around home. Nature isn’t just a bunch of far-off plants, animals, and landscapes to learn about and visit once or twice a year. It’s an environment to be immersed in daily, especially during our childhood years” (p. 14).
Our little ones are constantly watching, learning and growing and if they’re looking up to nature advocates and leaders, anything is possible in the future! So get outside and see where it takes you and the future leaders and innovators of tomorrow!
Fort York VFX (2015, July 17). Nature Valley: 3 Generations. Vimeo. https://vimeo.com/133769368
Makovichuk, L., Hewes, J., Lirette, P., & Thomas, N. (2014). Flight: Alberta’s Early Learning and Care Framework. Retrieved from https://flightframework.ca
Sampson, S.D. How to Raise a Wild Child. (2015). New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Written by Katherine Kaiser
Board Member of ARCQE