Just like in other industrialized countries, China’s city kids have become residents in an urban jungle, imprisoned in apartments in high-rise buildings. No more climbing trees, catching fish or spending all day outside.
Losing their ability to experience nature, these youngsters can talk at length about whales or cheetahs, but not describe a flower at their feet. And that’s sad. If a child can describe the lifestyle of a whale in detail, but he can’t remember the last time he explored woods or a beach, he’s not likely to genuinely care about nature.
But Things Are Changing: Nature Education For Children
Friends of Nature, formed in 1993, is one of China’s oldest NGOs and has provided links between the urban public and nature through bird-watching and gardening groups. Nature education aimed at children started in 2000, with Green Hope Action and the Antelope Bus.
Originally these groups brought volunteers from the city visit poor villages to provide environmental education, but increasingly the focus has shifted to giving city children a range of educational activities based around the observation and experience of nature. These kids need to re-connect with the natural world.
City Kids In Nature Become Imaginative
Here’s a first-hand report, from The Guardian:
Song Xi works on Friends of Nature’s nature experience project. She asked a group of lively children to close their eyes and lie beneath the branches of a large tree. When they opened their eyes and saw the sun shining through the green canopy, they fell silent –as if the whole world had stopped.
At first, city kids are unruly and uninterested, but they become curious, excited and focused over time. Initially they don’t want to get dirty and they scream at the sight of a bug – but soon they get closer to nature than their parents do. If they have the opportunity to observe and experience nature, they discover new things, things we may never have noticed, and they become imaginative about things that look ordinary.
International Movement To Get Kids Back Into Nature
It is exciting to know that the movement to reconnect children with nature is happening in China too! Here in the United States, with childhood obesity rates rising, along with the number of hours those same youngsters spend on their electronic devices, the movement to get children out into nature is growing exponentially.
The need to get kids out into nature motivated me to write Get Out! 150 Easy Ways for Kids and Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future, and to my delight it was recently translated into Chinese.
These words, quoted in The Guardian, say it all:
As Li Weiwen, chair of Taiwan’s Society of Wilderness wrote in his book Education Can Be Romantic: “Take your child for a walk, and if you have a calm and unflustered heart, nature will lead you to appreciate it and learn everything that we should know.”
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