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Chapter 1 Creating a Greener Earth One doesn’t have to search to find news about envi- ronmental problems affecting our world today. Most of us have become at least somewhat aware of issues such as air and water pollution, species extinctions, climate change, and health threats posed by chemi- cals in the environment. As early childhood profes- sionals, many of you may have encountered parents and even young children raising questions and want- ing to understand these and other environmental issues. Many parents now expressly seek child care programs that emphasize environmental awareness and experiences with children. More and more even look for child care that embraces environmentally friendly operating procedures, such as recycling and use of nontoxic cleaning products. Some of you reading this book may be relatively new to these environmental issues and feel perplexed as you make sense of them, sorting out facts from rumors and politics. Others may already be deeply aware of the issues. You may have made changes in your lifestyle and possibly have even begun teach- ing environmental topics to the children in your care. Many of you are likely somewhere in between. Regardless of where you are on this spectrum, you’re probably somewhat aware that we all share in the responsibility of taking care of our planet, and you understand that learning more about our impact on the environment is an important step. But it can be overwhelming to sort through the tidal wave of environmental information and recommendations and to decide how specifically to handle these matters at your program and with the children in your care. I hope this book can serve as a resource for you. It is intended to provide a foundation for educating young children on the environment through experience and play. Each chapter focuses on a common and important environmental topic in our world today. You’ll find a basic introduction to each topic followed by a set of ac- tivities for children. Although the chapter introductions cover the “problem” dimension of the environmental topic, the activities for children explicitly do not. The activities are designed to help children simply explore the environment and develop a sense of wonder, curiosity, and joy in nature. Though I agree that ultimately we all need to learn about Earth’s problems to be prepared to ad- dress them—as I explain more fully in the section that follows—early childhood is not a good time for this em- phasis. It is my deeply held philosophy—and research agrees—that the pure exploration and experience of nature in early childhood will lay the foundation for later development of stewardship: the feeling of own- ership, connectedness, and desire to care for our planet. The activities in this book reflect this philosophy. The introductory information in each chapter is provided as a framework for the topic. You can use it to review or develop your core understanding of the topic and to answer your own basic questions or those of children that may arise as you do the activities. 1