How Parents Can Help

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There seems to be an ongoing debate with regard to the best way to teach children about the environment. Does environmental education require the child to have access to outdoor opportunities? Or must this education be taught in the classroom? Is the environmental education provided in the classroom or on TV biased? Does it really matter and if so, to what extent? Well, considering the fact that until our children leave home and set out on their own, it remains our responsibility as their parents to sit as sentinels to safeguard and provide what we believe are appropriate core values.

It would be difficult for parents to teach their children without being a role model for them to follow. Young children are impressionable. Teach your children in a simple way how to interact with the natural environment around them. At an early age it is important for them to become aware of what exists in their world, not what they may see on TV, a thousand miles from their environment.

Encourage your children to engage. Recycle your food waste into compost and put them in charge of managing the operation. Work as a team and create a mini ecosystem in the back yard so they can monitor activity that will soon make use as a new home or feeding place. Let them begin to learn about recycling by assigning duties for accurately placing recycled materials in their proper disposal bin. Or, help them build a simple terrarium.

Take time out for a stroll in the park or nature center where an ecosystem is available with trees and plants, animals and insects. Stop and let them observe for themselves how these different species of plants and animals exist. Take along paper and pencil to log what they see on each trip and, perhaps, this will excite them to search for more on their next excursion. When children explore their natural habitat, they develop a personal connection with nature.

As children get older and begin to refine their foundation of core values, integrate more complex areas into your discussions. When a faucet leaks and is being replaced, tell your children this single drip can waste 3,000 gallons of water a year. When you get in the car to run a series of errands, explain to them that doing these on one run conserves fuel, which in turn reduces our need for fossil fuels and also reduces carbon emissions. When children learn from a very early age the environment has an impact on their lifestyle and quality of life, they will begin to learn that their lifestyle has an impact on the environment. In time, when they become young adults and leave home, the values their parents encouraged will be instilled in their very character, and will almost certainly be passed on to their children. It doesn’t cost much – just a little love and caring. 

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