Why teach "nature" in your
Ruth Wilson (1994)(1), editor of
Environmental Education at the Early Childhood Level, North American
Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), states "Few people today
would question the need for developing an environmentally literate society and
the concomitant need for environmental education programs in both formal and
nonformal settings. Less well understood, however, is the need to being
environmental education at the early childhood level."
should "Nature" be a part of early childhood education?
Cohen, Ph.D., (1994)(2) Director, Research Center at Pacific Oaks College,
states "Nature education is critically important in an early childhood
program for three reasons:
education is important for its own sake. The natural world has inspired awe and
wonder in human beings for more generations than we can count. Yet children
today, especially urban children, are increasingly divorced from or frightened
by this wonder, unaware of its power and beauty.
2. In a
world increasingly threatened by the effects of human behavior, we need a
custodial generation of young people committed to finding solutions to
is a wonderful early childhood curriculum area. The natural world is patterned,
yet ever-changing. Birth, growth, and death--topics of abiding interest to
young children’s opening minds--are central to it. And the observation,
classification, and communication skills that develop in the study of nature
lead to the skills and dispositions children will need to succeed in
When should environmental education
to Wilson (1993)3 “an environmental education program for young
children should serve as the first step in the development of an
environmentally literate and concerned citizenry. Environmental education is a
process – a lifelong process that starts with the child’s first experiences in
the natural world.” “Children create strong and enduring mental
representations of what they have experienced in investigating the everyday world.”
(Conezio and French, 2002)(4) “Environmental education and early
childhood education have common key characteristics: first-hand experiences and
active participation, interdisciplinary, conceptual, process development
(cognitive, affective and behavioral) problem solving skills; and holistic
approach.” (Vanrony, 1999)(5).
“Parents often have a sense of
inadequacy on the one hand when confronted with the eager sensitive mind of a
child and on the other with a world of complex physical nature, inhabited by a
life so various and unfamiliar that is seems hopeless to reduce it to order and
knowledge. In a mood of self-deft, they exclaim, ‘How can I possibly
teach my child about nature. Why, I don’t even know one bird from another!’”
(Carson 1956)(6). Rachel Carson said, “I sincerely believe that for
the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important
to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge
and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile
soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the
time to prepare the soil.”
In an April 1995 survey conducted by
the Regents’ Center for Early Developmental Education7 at University
of Northern Iowa, it is stated that “developmentally appropriate practices were
formulated for children (birth through age 8) in response to the widespread
need for better ways of educating young children. This framework draws upon the
base of knowledge about child development to suggest effective strategies for
working with your children.” A developmentally appropriate program recognizes
Children actively construct their own knowledge
Children learn best through activities which engage their interest
Inclusive programs expand opportunities for all children
Appropriate assessment strengthens learning and teaching
Children benefit when parents and others from the community are involved with
1 Wilson, R.A. 1994, Editor,
Envionrmental Education at the Early Childhood Level. North American
Association for Enviornmental Education. NAAEE, P.O. Box 400, Troy, OH 45373
2 Cohen, R. 1994. Why Nature
Education Should Be a Part of Early childhood Education. Environmental Education
at the Early Childhood Level. North American Association for
Environmental Education. NAAEE, P.O. Box 400, Troy, OH 45373
3Wilson, R.A. 1993.
Fostering a Sense of Wonder during the Early Childhood Years. Columbus,
OH: Grayden Press.
4Conezio, K. and L. French.
2002. Science in the Preschool Classroom. Capitalizing on Children’s
Fascination with the Every Day World to Foster Language and Literacy
Development. Young Children, September 2002.
5Vanorny, M. 1999. Nurturing Nature,
Environmental Education for Young Children. Minnesota Children’s Museum.
6 Carson, R. 1956. The Sense of
Wonder. New York: Harper & Row
For more information click on
DEVELOPMENT and look at Starting Early: Environmental Education during the
Early Childhood Years.