desire to impart as much information as possible.
However, when it comes to young children and the
environment, often the less technical information
you offer the better. If you’re providing opportunities
for rich, authentic experiences of the natural world
and guiding children’s exploration of the specific en-
vironmental topics in this book, you’re doing enough!
As I discussed earlier, children find their own mean-
ing and construct their own knowledge through their
experiences. You serve as their guide in doing this.
You don’t need to provide all the details behind en-
vironmental topics. You don’t need to know all the
answers. Ask questions together with the children!
Make connections. Build on previous learning from
other activities as much as you can. There are some
activities that complement each other particularly
well, and I’ve noted those in the Tips. Consider how
you can connect these activities to other disciplines
or use your work in other areas to springboard into
these activities. For example, if you’ve just read a
book on life in a pond, introduce one of the many
activities from chapter 5 to build on the group’s inter-
est in water.
Don’t be afraid to veer off track. Some of the most
important discoveries are unplanned and unscripted.
Be open to changing course during an activity if that’s
what the children need to do. The activities will be
much more meaningful if you are responsive to the
interests and needs of the children. If you have an
indoor activity planned but the gorgeous spring day
calls you outside, find an outdoor activity in this book
or follow the children’s lead. Be spontaneous and go
with the flow. Above all, be flexible.
Think first about your local environment. Often,
when people think about nature experiences in school
settings, they think first of field trips or outings to
faraway established nature areas. These outings can
present cost and logistical challenges. Remember that
sometimes the learning experiences with the most
impact are the ones that happen close to home (and
school). Children typically connect best with their im-
mediate environment. Learning about water? Instead
of taking a field trip to a faraway public aquarium or
other place, see what you can discover in the nearby
green space. Children are familiar and comfortable
with their immediate surroundings, and this famil-
iarity and comfort can lead to deeper learning.
Remind yourself to be curious, be vocal, and be
positive. See a new flower that you’ve never noticed
before? Curious about the shape of the clouds? Won-
dering why all the ants are marching in a straight line?
Talk about it! Let yourself be delighted! The positive
effects of nature are not limited to children—nature
is good for adults too! And children will be inspired
when they see you expressing curiosity and excite-
ment about the natural world. The more you share
the positive feelings and questions you have about
the natural world, the better! Your curiosity will in-
spire children to notice things and ask questions too.
Conversely, if you hate bugs or think it’s too cold out-
side, keep it to yourself. Try to let the children have
their own experiences. Remember how important it
is to be outside, despite the small challenges or an-
noyances you may feel. If you gripe about bugs or
complain about the weather, you can be sure the chil-
dren will do the same.
Set open-ended goals. Set teaching goals for yourself
to support learning and playful outdoor exploration,
as opposed to setting goals for the children based on
tangible, knowledge-based, content-driven results.
This may be challenging if you work in a very aca-
demic setting or are used to justifying your activities
to parents hungry to know “What did my daughter
learn today?” The most effective teaching goals at the
early childhood level are not focused on the end re-
sult and do not require children to repeat content or
memorize facts. For example, an effective early child-
hood teaching objective might be “To plan outdoor
activities at least three times this week” or “To find
three new ways to explore water with children” as op-
posed to “Teach children three properties of water.”
This third teaching objective is not wrong in itself, it is
just more content-focused and places more value on
the end result than on the experience of learning and
discovery. This objective would be more appropriate
Creating a Greener Earth 9