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Today’s children are disconnected from nature???

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March 9, 2017

Today’s children are disconnected from nature???

In this technological era more and more children are disconnected from nature. What is the reason? How can we connect our students with nature? What is the role of schools and teachers in this area? Today’s children often have limited opportunities to connect with the natural environment. Children spend more time viewing television and playing video games on computers than they do being physically active outside. Nature or Environment is the best school for learning new skills and life lessons. It teaches many things to students. Educational institutions and educators must connect environment with the teaching-learning process.

The word ‘Environment’ means surroundings in which we are living. Environment includes all those things on which we are directly or indirectly dependent for our survival, whether it is living components like animals, plants or non-living components like soil, air, water. Environmental Studies gives an understanding on environmental issues like Plants, Food, Shelter, Water, Travel, State and Country, Trees, Animals, etc. EVS, the subject, also includes social issues that are part of our environment like – Family and Friends, Relationships, Work and Play, etc. A child can be positively moulded and shaped by the quality of the environment; its social, physical and cognitive interaction with the child, and the child’s interaction with it. Contact with the environment or nature is an essential part in building firm and positive foundation for the child’s success n life.

Benefits from having access to nature

Nature provides a means for children to learn without being taught through more structured activities, and offers possibilities for:

1. Improving their health and levels of physical activity when they spend time outdoors in the midst of nature. Physical health can also influence a child’s ability to learn.

2. Developing an environmental identity and consciousness.

3. Development in every major way—intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and physical.

4. Developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual development.

5. Different ways of moving, which improves coordination.

6. Enhances cognitive abilities.

7. Improves academic performance.

8. Contact with the natural world can significantly reduce symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children.

9. Increases physical activity. Children who experience school grounds with diverse natural settings are more physically active, more aware of nutrition, more civil to one another and more creative.

10. They are also more likely to continue healthy eating habits throughout their lives.

11. Improves eyesight. More time spent outdoors is related to reduced rates of nearsightedness, also known as myopia, in children and adolescents.

12. Improves social relations.

13. Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-doors.

14. Improves self-discipline. Access to green spaces, and even a view of green settings, enhances peace, self control and self-discipline.

15. Green plants and vistas reduce stress among highly stressed children.

16. Risk taking – children are more likely to develop responsible attitudes towards risk if they have experience dealing with risky situations.

17. Problem solving – children are more likely to encounter opportunities for decision making that stimulate problem solving and creative thinking because outdoor spaces are often more varied and less structured than indoor spaces.

18. Socialization – much of play is social and play promotes learning about vital social skills such as turn- taking, sharing, negotiation and leadership. Nature of environmental problems is both complex and critical, besides being huge; it demands team and collaborative work. This helps students to improve their interpersonal skills and they will emerge great leaders and team players in the future.

19. Supporting a child’s sense of self and recognizing independence, interdependence and connectedness with their ecological world.

20. Striving to attain harmony with Nature.

Connecting e-generation to nature:

Free and unstructured play in the outdoors boosts problem-solving skills, focus and self-discipline. Socially, it improves cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Outdoor education can enrich, vitalize, and complement all content areas of school curriculum by means of observation and direct experience. School grounds and locale can afford learning opportunities. The outdoor activities include: marking shadows at different time intervals; collecting insects and other animals; observing cloudy sky; observing birds near feeders or shrubs. Depending on the age of your students, try to be realistic about how much walking they will be happy to do. The point of a nature walk is to get up close to nature, not to do a forced march with unhappy children. Some of the outdoor learning activities are:-

1. Nature walk: biggest benefit of getting outside in nature is to enjoy the variety and creativity found in the natural world.

2. Visit to supporting organizations: Arrange visits to supporting organizations like post office, police station, hospital, bank, fire station, railway station, markets, etc. It will help the students to understand the concepts clearly.

3. Micro Biology: This works really well when you are exploring tide pools, streams, ponds or other water systems. You can bring along a magnifying glass and let the children examine water creatures.

4. Play with the wind: The wind is an interesting phenomenon in that it is felt rather than seen. Very often children will notice the wind through how it moves other objects such as leaves.

5. Fly a kite: Experiment with a range of flying kites and see which work best. Encourage them to analyze the movement of wind.

6. Seed scattering and leaf catching: Many plants rely on wind to scatter their seeds. Blow on a dandelion clock and watch the seeds float away on their own ‘parachutes.’ Some seeds have wings. Compare how these seeds spin and fall to the ground. If you have a portable fan, it is possible to set up an experiment to investigate how effectively different seeds can be scattered in the wind. In autumn, try to catch a falling leaf. Which leaves are the easiest to catch?

7. Returning Rocks: Go for a walk and collect stones. Then go back and try and remember where they all came from. Through this activity they can learn the shape, size, etc of the stones.

8. Bird feeder: Setting up a bird feeder near your home gives an up-close-and-personal view of birds. It creates empathy and also develops love for other creatures in the world.

9. Nest builder: Lend a helping hand to the birds in your area by supplying them with simple nesting materials. Put out some wet mud, moss, small twigs, straw, short lengths of string or knitting yarn and see which birds use the different materials for their nest.

10. Treasure Hunt: Which young child can resist the pull of an outdoor adventure, and the promise of a hidden treasure? In between all that bounty-chasing and treasure-digging, he will get a taste of how to use a map, and begin to connect how images and symbols on a map correspond to things in the physical world.

11. Traffic Cop: Your child and his friends will have a blast taking turns playing the role of a traffic cop with Red Light, Green Light. It is a good way to celebrate the hard working officers that protect our communities. Students can recreate the directions of a traffic light and organize a group race. Whoever makes it to the finish line first while obeying the rules of the road is the winner!

12. Everyday Scientist: Charles Darwin is best known for discovering how species evolve and adapt, and your students can follow in his footsteps. Take advantage of the sunny, warm weather and accompany your child on an adventure in species mapping. By creating an interactive observation notebook, not only will your child strengthen her organizational skills, but she will also get a chance to see the world around her from a different point of view.

13. Gardening: Gardening is connected with loads of developmental, physical and even psychological benefits for children.

14. Flower Artist: Gather your young artists and some paint (watercolors or liquid tempera) near a flowerbed. Watch them create their newest masterpiece! Children will improve their observation skills and learn about colors.

As a part of connecting children with nature, we are arranging a nature camp for our Pre-primary students during the month of February under the supervision of our curriculum designer. Through this we are aiming to help our students to improve their interpersonal skills and hope that they will emerge great leaders and team players in the future.

When schools make an effort to integrate the natural environment into their infrastructure, children’s academic performance and ability have been found to improve across the curriculum. Boosting this connection with and understanding of nature will help our children – the next generation of leaders and decision-makers. As educators, it is our duty and responsibility to help children connect with nature in as many ways as possible.

Let Nature be your teacher

– William Wordsworth

Shani K I, M Com & B Ed, is presently working as Academic Coordinator at the IDC English Higher Secondary School, Thrissur in Kerala. She has been an avid blogger and has also worked as a Special Educator at the Ideal Academy, Perinjanam. He believes ‘in lifelong learning and the constant need to upgrade ones skills to meet the needs of the ever challenging society. As an educator, each successful year I feel a strong sense of achievement and satisfaction which give me immense pleasure and motivation to set goals and strive hard to achieve them’.

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