Turning to Nature to Help and Heal

Image courtesy of Katy Fenn

By Katy Fenn, Director, Education Outreach, World Wildlife Fund

 

Fellow parents: this is a challenging time for most of us. 

I’m a mom to a 4-year-old and a nearly 2-year-old now home from daycare, and like so many of you, I am adjusting to a new way of working while figuring out how to juggle an overwhelming set of new responsibilities. This includes ensuring that my kids get outdoors and being their primary educator about the world they find there. And yet, as we’ve seen, the lack of protection of nature is what has shaped this current crisis in which we find ourselves. That’s why it’s more important than ever to teach our children about nature and instill in them a sense of stewardship for our precious planet. 

But what do you do when your children are relatively young and likely don’t have an understanding of the pandemic and chaos happening around them? I’ve come to find that exploring and learning about the world outside our window can be a source of healing and calm for all of us. This can be as simple as discovering nature in your backyard or going for a nature scavenger walk and looking for things (think sticks, plants, rocks, or bugs). Or sitting outside, closing your eyes and listening to the different sounds nature makes (birds singing, trees blowing in the wind, squirrels running around).

The COVID-19 crisis has fundamentally redefined daily life for many of us. With school closures and remote working becoming the new normal, the way we spend quality time with our children has changed too. The path to how we got here is upsetting, but I’m going to use this opportunity to teach my children about the small, miraculous world in our backyard and why it’s so special and worth cherishing.  

However, for many people, traditional ways of getting outside are not accessible. This is why at WWF we’ve worked to create some digital tools to help more parents spark a love affair with nature in their kids and keep them learning, thinking and entertained while we are at home. 

I’ve used these tools with my own children and have found them immensely helpful for having to navigate this new normal of being a parent and an educator:

 

Experience nature through the eyes of World Wildlife Fund experts

Bring conservation and science to life by engaging with WWF experts live as they share stories of their experience working to protect wildlife and habitats around the world and ask them your questions about our environment. In the upcoming weeks we are going to talk about bees, elephants, and rivers, lakes and streams.

Explore educational activities from Wild Classroom

Each week we will introduce a new lesson plan. Wild Classroom, an online suite of resources for educators, offers free STEM, language arts, social studies, art, and physical education learning activities. Our resources help children build critical skills, such as collaboration and problem-solving, all while learning about our collective responsibility to protect the planet. 

Express yourself through art

Take inspiration from fun activities designed to encourage children to get creative and learn about nature and sustainability. For the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day this year, WWF is launching an #ArtForEarth campaign, aimed at inspiring creativity during the week of April 20. Be on the lookout for daily themes to get you drawing, painting, crocheting – whatever the mood strikes! – in celebration of our natural world. 

Discover the natural world through WWF apps

Interact and learn about one of the 16 featured species in the WWF Together app or take your outdoor nature scavenger hunt a step further with the Seek app. Use your smartphones’ camera to scan the environment and identify organisms all around you through image recognition technology.

 

As Earth Week draws to a close, I hope that you enjoy these opportunities to explore our fascinating and diverse world from home and find ways to incorporate them into your children’s curriculum. This past week we witnessed the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and it put into perspective that the fight for clean air, clean water, and abundant biodiversity is an ever-evolving process. As parents, we’re shaping our kids to one day pass the torch of environmental stewardship onto them. So during this unprecedented time let’s continue to encourage our children to appreciate and ask questions about our environment and together, as a family, think about what actions we can all take to continue to protect our one and only amazing planet.

 

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