For children, to know how the climate gets healthy holds the key to the sustainable ecosystem. Research suggests, the first few years of a child’s life create a permanent attitude towards the natural environment surrounding them. Thus it is fundamental for parents to understand the significance of trees to the climate and implant environmental awareness in children to prolong a climate-friendly environment for themselves and the next generations to come.
The major challenge that the environmental advocates face is educating parents about the importance of trees for the environment and help them adopt the right methods to teach their children to make them become aware of the climate. Most of the parents don’t realize once a tree has been planted it takes extraordinary care and effort afterward that leads to a healthy tree. This simple understanding can create an opportunity for kids to learn the nature of our very existence.
Understanding The Importance
Children can learn the idea of change and transformation simply by observing how the trees go through the cycle of change with the changing seasons. They can learn to become resilient seeing the trees bend in the heavy wind and branches break on a fierce storm but still remain strong and grow tall. Noticing how the plants die out without water and how the weed compete against the trees while eating away the nutrition from the soil arises a sense of understanding, the responsibility to care and love for the plants. When the blooming flowers and the ripe fruits bring bees, butterflies, insects, and birds children learn to discover where the food comes from and how the ecosystem works. Finally, a strong sense of reasoning develops in them to nurture and preserve Mother Nature.
Children become better learners when surrounded by trees. To grow young star’s interest in nature it is important to start teaching them gardening at a very young age. The most favorable aspect of inspiring love for planting trees is that they already have it in the core of their being to be happy about it. They like to get dirty, dig the soil, tend the plants, become excited to see the plants grow and most of all being outdoor doing gardening with friends in a playful manner. While doing so they develop new skills such as science (e.g., how trees help us breathe, stop erosion, keep us cool, absorb energy from the sunlight for food, how tree roots get water from the soil, food nutrition or how the ecosystem works, etc.), what tree woods can be used for, how to grow their own food, different species of plants, and so on.
Lecturing your kids about the impact of deforestation will not be as effective as story-based learning because nobody likes lectures. It is story-based teaching that unravels the real consequences of deforestation which have the implications to encourage the development of the next generation of eco-conscious children. Using information narratives that have a sequence of events is a great way to teach your kid. For example, showing practical imageries of real-life climate crisis and stories about how new towns and industries are being built while wiping rain forests away in many parts of the world. As a result, indigenous people are becoming homeless, some majestic creatures start to become endangered and later extinct, the climate starts to behave with unpredictable storms, floods and heats waves. Too much carbon pollution and not enough trees to clean the climate up, producing less amount of oxygen we breathe to remain alive and a lesser amount of food to survive. All these practical examples can reflect the practical side of trees and a very powerful way to grow empathy for nature in young kids. They will be more likely to eagerly accept these types of story-based lessons as they can affect and applies to them. Also, have the potential to make them think about conservationism and other possible solutions.
Imaginative Learning (Creative Approach to Environmental Education)
Activities in accordance with creative approaches to environmental education can trigger children’s curiosity, keep them attentive, develop an appreciation of the natural environment they live in and encourage them to discover biodiversity. Through their newly acquired knowledge, they explore the relationship between the local culture and ecosystem to think critically about the impact of human activity on the environment.
Parents can take their children or teachers can take their students for a field trip to a garden or in their own familiar landscape to make them become aware of the plant’s diversity in their natural environment to generate a sense of wonder. Parents or teachers may consider classifying the plants according to three categories 1) The Nourishing Plants (foods), 2) The Healing Plants (treatments, medicines and rituals) and 3) The Protecting Plants (raw materials for building homes). Some plants may have several uses and will feature in multiple categories.
- The Nourishing Plants: Children will conduct an initial classification of edible bulbs (e.g., onion, garlic), edible roots (e.g., carrots, ginger, radish), edible leaves (e.g., common garden cress, mint, tulsi, coriander leaves), fleshy fruits and vegetables. Through the classification of these plants, children will form initial knowledge of cultivated or noncultivated natural resources available in their surrounding environment. Then the kids will be asked to taste and identify the fruits, vegetables, leaves and roots flavor of the commonly used plants. It is important to provide information on the use of the plants (e.g., is it a cultivated or noncultivated plant, it was sown or planted, is it eaten raw or cooked, is it a common or endangered rare species, does the plant have specific nutritional profiles, etc.).
- The Healing Plants: Children or pupils will pay a visit to a herbalist or a traditional healer specialized in plant-based medicines. the healer will classify plant samples to the children based on their therapeutic and healing properties. The plants can be classified into categories such as tonic, antipyretic, diuretic, or purgative (Parents or teachers may simplify these words describing the conditions cured by these plants instead). For example, the inner leaf juice of the Aloe vera plant may heal wounds or burns, Tulsi leaves or ginger may reduce coughing conditions, they can also be used in making herbal tea. The children will be informed and explore various uses of these plants in healing, traditional ceremonies and rituals. The healers and herbalist’s knowledge may transmit to the next generation which may lead to the protection and conservation of medicinal plants.
- The Protecting Plants: When children will pay a visit to different types of dwellings classifying objects that are being used from plants as building materials or furniture can create an understanding of how plants provide shelter through protection and security. For example, classifying Mahogany tree for it makes straight and strong pillars, the Bamboo tree for temporary construction or good grip to the dwellings of the village, Palm tree for strong roof or boat, strong and durable doors or furniture that are made out of Segun tree. They will value the plants, even more, when they would know the potential use of every single thing from the plant can be used in numerous useful ways. (i.e., knowing about the cloth that we wear, which is another form of protection also comes from the plant’s fibers and barks).
(If you have any creative ideas to help emphasize children’s imaginative learning outcome about the natural environment, Please write your ideas in the comment field below.)
One Child One Tree Campaign
There are similar projects like One Child One Tree or One Tree For Each Child or One Tree Per Child based on a concept that each child will plant a tree then nurture it as he/she grows up with the plant. Once a child became aware of looking after the environment, these types of projects can be implemented in their own garden, rooftop. balcony, park, or any open space where they can take care of the plant regularly. Schools can take the bigger initiative to plant on a large scale by the elementary students in the schoolyard. If there is a lack of space in the school then each tree can be planted by a group of students and nurture it together. They can even give the tree a name.
These projects will teach children to be an environmental advocate and continue to do their part of being a responsible member of the community. The simple idea of instilling the value of trees in children will help them realize that their tiny hands can create a huge impact on the lives of people and the environment, to foster growth in the community, and to tackle climate change. They will contribute to making their home or school’s greener and environment friendly.
Similar project initiatives can be taken during the celebration of Earth Day, National Tree Day, or any days that suit schools. This type of initiative will make it easier to form partnerships with schools, local councils, agencies, corporations, sponsors, tree planting groups, community organizations, and volunteers for easier access to trees, shrubs, tools, land, people who can help organize these events.
Getting Children Interested
Gardening is an enjoyable activity for children. To get children involved and interested in planting trees, try to make it simple. Give them their own garden space that doesn’t have to be big. They can start with a few containers and pots. Let them design their own garden, choose some flower plants to attract butterflies, dragonflies, bees and birds. fruits or vegetable plants that they like to eat, and provide them right-sized tools and equipment that are easier for them to handle.
For children’s safety in the garden keep insecticides and chemical fertilizers out of their reach. Teach them to produce food organically so that they become aware of safe and unsafe food. Secure fence and gates. Make sure they ware suitable clothing (E.g., hat, sunscreen. sunglasses. gumboots). Provide shade in the summer with shade cloths or umbrellas and have safe storage for their gardening tools and equipment.