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Environmental Education at Home

​​***For more ideas, see this post from the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education (KAEE).

Home learning is the perfect opportunity to help children be more aware of their environment. Getting children connected to the outdoors, and encouraging them to do their own improvement projects, will give them the skills to make the world a better place.

For younger children, turn your outdoor space into a fantasy world with these ideas from David Sobel’s Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators:

  1. Adventure: Turn a walk in the neighborhood or the park into an adventure. Set the stage before heading out, and allow your children to map, journal and reflect on the discoveries they make along the way.
  2. Fantasy and Imagination: Try telling a story to evoke images and lore around the place you live. Transform your backyard into a magical kingdom and allow your children to fill in the details and retell what they have come up with.
  3. Animal Allies: Ask your children what animals might live in this place (either your yard, park or other natural places). Have them pick their favorite (or two) and make up a story about them.
  4. Maps and Paths: Have children produce a 3-D map of an area you plan to visit, then bring that map along to see how the area actually looks. Have a discussion on how different or similar the area looks compared to what they envisioned while making their map.  
  5. Special Places: Have your children build a fort out of toys, branches, and anything else outdoors (or use a natural place like space under a tree or in a hedge), or the classic blanket fort indoors.
  6. Small Worlds: Have your children engage in constructing a small scale city, town, or kingdom using natural materials. Ask them to explain the features of their small world and how it is alike and different from the world in which they live.
  7. Hunting and Gathering: Tell your children that you would like for them to collect or gather things from the yard or in the place you are visiting. They can then display their collection for the entire family. You can either specify items or ask them to collect things  they find interesting.​

For older children, engage their abilities in projects that will improve the sustainability and health of your home. Have them plan, design, and implement a project like:

  1. Plant a tree, vegetable garden, or pollinator garden
  2. Design an exercise program or sports competition for the family
  3. Install a rain barrel
  4. Do a home energy audit
  5. Start composting
  6. Reuse and recycle items that can’t be recycled through your local recycling center
  7. Plan and cook a healthy meal

Encourage your children to help their school in the same way, when they return, by participating in the Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools program.

And when cabin fever sets in, head out to one of Kentucky’s outdoor adventures. Trails are open even if indoor spaces are closed.

Whatever you do, make sure your children get outside!

​Here are some resources for other ideas to connect your family to nature:

Books
(Some of these may be available in electronic formats)

Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators by David Sobel

A Natural Sense of Wonder by Rick Van Noy

The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals―and Other Forgotten Skills by Tristan Gooley

The Curious Nature Guide: Explore the Natural Wonders All Around You by Clare Walker Leslie

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws

The Unplugged Family Activity Book: 60+ Simple Crafts and Recipes for Year-Round Fun by Rachel Jepson Wolf 

Exploring Nature Activity Book for Kids: 50 Creative Projects to Spark Curiosity in the Outdoors by Kim Andrews

The Outdoor Toddler Activity Book: 100+ Fun Early Learning Activities for Outside Play by Krissy Bonning-Gould

The Young Adventurer's Guide to (Almost) Everything: Build a Fort, Camp Like a Champ, Poop in the Woods-45 Action-Packed Outdoor Activities by Ben Hewitt (Author), Luke Boushee (Illustrator)


Apps
(all are free of charge)

 - iNaturalist 
 - Seek (by iNaturalist)
 - Geocache Intro
 - Audubon Bird Guide
 - Merlin Bird ID
 - Plum’s Photo Hunt
 - Leafsnap
 - Starchart