Planting Seeds of Knowledge: Activities To Do with Your Child to Celebrate Earth Day
posted by: Guest Blogger
Spring has arrived in Colorado and there’s no better time to get your child outside—especially with Earth Day around the corner. It’s a time to celebrate the bounties our earth provides and an opportunity to teach the next generation about the importance of caring for our natural resources.
Maria Montessori was a true advocate for student outdoor learning and connecting with nature. She observed that students who learned about the environment in the environment, built a deeper relationship with it and cared for it as they grew up. Learning outside also developed their practical life, language and sensory skills as well as their understanding of the natural sciences.
Getting students outside helps their bodies and minds unite. It gives their minds the ability to process the information they’ve just learned indoors and provide clarity around concepts and ideas. Why does this happen? Because people are meant to be outside, interacting with nature. Primitively, it is a part of us, our history, and our evolution as human beings. We are in a space we were meant to be—taking care of the environment because, ultimately, it takes care of us.
In addition to these benefits, there are numerous studies that point to the positive cognitive and physical effects of being outside. Kids Gardening notes “fifth grade students who participated in school gardening activities scored significantly higher on science achievement tests than students without garden curriculum.” Furthermore, it notes that children who spend time outdoors reduce health problems.
Now that we understand the importance of getting students outside, let’s talk about how you can replicate those cognitive and behavioral benefits at your home. There are a few activities you and your child can do at home to further the connection between nature and child.
- Seed planting—For preschool ages and up, you can help your child plant seeds in your garden or a community garden. The hands-on experience will help them understand the process of growing something from essentially nothing. Explain the process a seed undergoes from seed to sprouting to full growth. The “magic” of the process is not lost on kids. It is celebrated more and they adopt more reverence for the process having had that hands-on learning moment. Plus, they become much more interested once they see the “fruits” of their labor—a sprouted seed waiting to be watered and cared for. They see the direct results of their efforts.
- Nature walks—Toddlers especially have an admirable “awe” of the world. Their curiosity and innate joy of experiencing the world around them comes out during simple nature walks. Even a walk around your local neighborhood will spark questions, comments and keen observations that get them thinking about what’s around them and the fact that things beyond the classroom exist. They learn about the different types of plants and animals, shapes of leaves and flowers, the seasons and weather changes. They begin to understand what certain plants and animals are called, developing language skills.
- Harvesting food—Teaching your child how to harvest what they’ve planted is another way to show them where their food/plants come from and the importance of cultivating a strong understanding of their relationship to nature. Simply picking fresh tomatoes off the vine or pulling carrots out of the ground helps them learn to appreciate the cyclical relationship between food nourishing their bodies and them nurturing the food. And, many children will enthusiastically eat food that they grew themselves, even if normally it is something they would refuse.
- Visiting ecosystems – Visiting and studying different ecosystems is a great way to bring the experience to the next level with older students. Studying a marsh, lake, grasslands, or mountainous terrain by exploring it firsthand and then carefully researching the habitat is a great way for older children to feel connected to what they are learning and to better understand the plants and animals that live there and how they have adapted to their environments.
As a parent, school principal and teacher, I feel it is my duty to guide the next generation to care for the earth so we can engage communities in solving our most urgent environmental matters together. At Montessori Children’s House of Denver, one of our core values is “respect for the environment,” and we have developed sustainability programs and curricula that reflect that value so we can continue to pioneer environmental education the Montessori way.
Finally, a few words of wisdom from Maria Montessori herself:
There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature, to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature… so that the child may better understand and participate in the marvelous things which civilization creates.