Get Adobe Flash player
Double Tap TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET and wild, now covered by housing developments, shopping centers, or office parks. As development has taken over, there are fewer open natural areas where children can play. Their world has been landscaped and cemented over, leaving fewer green spaces to explore. In the past, children tended to play outside and to be a given fairly wide range in which to explore without adult interference. Children had ample opportunity to explore natural areas, build forts, explore creeks, and examine small creatures they came across. However, this radius has been shrinking over the past decades as parents keep closer watch on their children than ever before. Parents are afraid, citing crime, stranger danger, and even nature itself as threats to their children’s safety. At the same time, people are concerned about the future of the planet as development cuts into natural areas and the habitats for many species disap- pear. Woodlands, wetlands, and rain forests are shrinking, and pollution is an ever-growing concern. Concerned adults want to raise chil- dren who are sensitive to these issues and who care about the earth. Wanting to be proactive, teachers wonder how they can best foster in children a love of nature and a dispo- sition to be stewards of the environment. One instinct is to teach young children about what is happening to the earth and to engage them in activities to help save the planet. David Sobel cautions against this approach. When children are asked to solve monumental adult problems beyond their comprehension, they are not only likely to be unengaged but may also develop anxiety and what Sobel refers to as ecophobia, a “fear of ecological problems and the natural world” (1996, 5). Sobel indicates that exposure to curriculum focused on solving environmen- tal problems may actually result in disempowering children and leaving them with feelings of hopelessness. Instead, teachers should find ways to foster ecophilia, a love of the natural world, in children. Sobel says that at each stage of development, “children desire immersion, solitude, and interaction in a close, knowable world” (1996, 12). Look for ways to give children uninterrupted time where they can become deeply involved and engaged in the natural world, whether it is exploring outdoors or working in the garden. Giving children the gift of time to explore, observe, notice, and contemplate is essential to building a bond with nature. Many children today know a lot more about animals in faraway ecosys- tems than they do about the animals in their own backyard. They watch TV and movies and learn about exotic animals. However, it is hard to form a true Why Garden?  •  3 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL