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'No Child Left Inside'--the Solution to Your Child's Ecological Illiteracy?

Green Lifestyle  (tags: architecture, babies, clothing, CO2emissions, conservation, eco-friendly, energy, environment, family, globalwarming, humans, organic, recycling, society, Sustainabililty )

- 1881 days ago -
Natural areas needn't be deep in the wilderness--even urban parks can be used to teach kids valuable Eco-lessons.

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Kit B (276)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 8:10 am
Looking to boost your kids’ environmental IQ? The first step may be opening the front door and telling them to go play outside. (Photo: Anthony Lee/Getty)

How do you get kids to care about the environment? Take them outside.

It may sound like common sense, but a recent study found that taking kids to natural areas is incredibly powerful at teaching them—and making them care—about the environment, according to a study published in the journal PLOS ONE last week.

Minority students seem to benefit even more than white students from environmental education classes that involve visiting natural areas. This kind of immersion helps them gain relatively more ecological knowledge and cognitive skills than their counterparts, said Nils Peterson, study co-author and a researcher at North Carolina State University.

"The minority students got more out of outdoor education than others," he said. "It could be a feasible catch-up strategy" for minority students, who tend to lag behind in environmental literacy, he added.

The study didn't try to answer why this might be. However, one intuitive possibility is that since many minority groups simply don't get as much exposure to nature, they get more out of it when they get that chance, since it's new to them, he said.

The study looked at sixth- and eighth-grade students in 34 North Carolina classrooms, 16 of which enrolled students in environmental education programs, and 18 which did not (acting as a control). It found that the "programs really do work" at improving environmental knowledge, attitudes and behavior, said Kathryn Stevenson, a co-author and doctoral student at NC State.

The most effective teachers had between three to five years of experience in the subject, Peterson said. As expected, teachers get better after their first few years. Perhaps surprisingly, however, teachers tended to be less effective after more than five years. Although the researchers don't know why, it could be that teachers begin to run into more conflict with administrators, who often don't encourage environmental classes, or view it as an unnecessary add-on, he said.

Student age also had a minor impact on how well the classes went. Sixth graders learned faster than eighth graders, according to the study. For that reason, "having initiatives at younger ages is critical," Peterson said.

The kids benefitted just from being outside, regardless of activity. Also, natural areas needn't be deep in the wilderness; even urban parks can be used to teach kids valuable lessons, Peterson added.

The results are encouraging because taking kids outside is relatively simple and needn't be overly costly, especially since natural areas aren't necessarily far afield.

Environmental literacy is made up of four factors: factual knowledge and understanding of natural processes, attitudes about the environment, cognitive and analytical skills, and behavior. All areas must be developed for a person to be "environmentally literate"; caring about climate change doesn't necessarily lead a person to change their behavior, Stevenson said. She spent two years as an outdoor educator, four years as a high school biology teacher, and is now trying to figure out what makes people care about the environment.

There are many environmental education programs, which were generally found to be affective, with names like Project Learning Tree, Project WET and Project WILD. Most states have environmental education programs, and interested teachers can find more information from their state's website.

There is currently legislation pending before Congress (called "No Child Left Inside") which would provide some funding for environmental education classes throughout the country, Stevenson said. She and her colleagues hope that it may pass once Congress gets around to considering it, although it's unclear when that might be.

Peterson is cautiously optimistic about the state of environmental education, which he sees being embraced and taught by more teachers nationwide, but slowly. "It's very underfunded and under-supported," he said. "I think it's growing and getting more attention, but it's doing so against the odds."

By: Douglas Main | Take Part|

**Pledge to Protect the environment - mid - article at VISIT SITE**

Tim C (2420)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 9:03 am

. (0)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 11:18 am
One thing I learned about many of the food banks here in Toronto is that many of them grow their own produce. They use it to teach children about where food comes from. It also gets them outside and exposed to nature.
Now if we could just get the big kids to pick up after themselves when they eat their fast food and drink their 40 oz. sodas in the trash bin when they're done that would teach them about being environmentally responsible.

S S (0)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 11:53 am
Thank you.

. (0)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 1:02 pm
The very idea of ":environmental literacy" in the urban schools , as far as NJ goes is more than a stretch. Teaching about recycling in the suburban schools, is even a challenge; you can tell which family recycles, from those who have no idea.
To give you an idea how far removed urban students are about nature, we took a bus load of students on a pumpkin picing trip several years ago. On the bus, a student yelled out"look at the size of that dog!" - it was a poney.
If urban schools would only designate a patch of ground, create an environmental club for students to grow even flowers, this would be a step in the right direction.


Theodore Shayne (56)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 2:02 pm

Winn A (179)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 2:24 pm

Varcolac Veroscarius (93)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 2:47 pm
I agree with you Kit!.

Birgit W (160)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 4:12 pm
Children need to be more outside and not sitting in a school the whole day. When I went to school our school was finished around lunch time. No wonder they don't know what to do with all their energy if they have to be sitting the whole day in a classroom.

JL A (281)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 5:08 pm
Historically many wonderful programs of this type have been run by national and state parks--some of the hits from reduced budgets by Congress and states have reduced or eliminated such programs.

Lauren Berrizbeitia (68)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 6:28 pm
Environmental education is all good, but what about just playing outdoors, playing in woods, playing in brooks and on rocks and in trees? Caring about our earth and love of the outdoors go together. I wish some field trips were for this, just playing and exploring nature. Kids need it!

Ness F (211)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 6:38 pm
My daughter has a green thumb ( age 9 ) and both kids love being outside and are sporty, yet I sadly can't say the same about their friends..when our kids get "too cosy" playing with their tech gadgets...time limit put on, and then out the door you go..go explore, play, learn, get some Vit D , fresh air and exercise...

Angelika R (143)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 6:47 pm
Nice comment there from Michael, sad story from Allan. Hard to believe any kid could be that stupid, perhaps he was just joking?
I have no idea what exactly a US school day and a kindergarten day looks like. But I would have thought that there, like here, outdoor collective hikes are mandatory !?
I cannot see why that should be primarily a fund issue and not just support and willpower, plus some organisational ideas.

Kit B (276)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 7:25 pm

Nope, he was not joking. I used to take students out to dig up fossils. It's really not that far, but most of the students had no real idea about farm land, being out side and free to roam, digging in the dirt.

Things were very different, in many ways I think we had the advantage. I can remember putting my books in my room and wandering out side till dinner. Play a game of "pick baseball" or just check out the meandering creek not far from home. After dinner at the table, with no TV on there was conversation, helping with the dishes, and then off to do home work, and reading a book before bedtime.

Kit B (276)
Sunday March 31, 2013, 7:28 pm

We had a garden, we all worked in the garden. My children loved having a garden or climbing up the Mulberry tree to get Mulberrys for a cobbler. We have lost touch with nature, so it's easier to not think about what we destroy. I have worked for years trying to persuade the local schools to have even a small garden. No go on that.

Ben O (171)
Monday April 1, 2013, 4:42 am
Thank You, Kit!

Past Member (0)
Monday April 1, 2013, 5:10 am
no kids for me. no comment

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Monday April 1, 2013, 7:40 am
Thank you! (Noted)
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