In the age of Industry 4.0, it's important to think about the relationship children will have with nature. Granted, with so many other technological distractions vying for their attention in this day and age, their development and interaction with the world looks a lot different to what we've seen before. We know that children are inherently inquisitive, and from a young age, they start exploring the world around them — and many of them are instinctively drawn to nature and animals. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) ushers in new innovations that are a potential danger to the world’s natural resources, it also provides ample innovations to not only teach children about nature but also to use these technologies to help the environment.
“Environmental education is important for everyone as it raises awareness of issues in the natural and built environment,” says Justin Smith at the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa. “It also provides an opportunity for children to acquire creative problem-solving skills to address these issues and become powerful advocates of change.”
So, how exactly do we get our kids fully immersed in the environment? Here are three fun and easy suggestions:
Create a connection
The majority of children are disconnected from nature and many do not realise the damage some of their daily actions have on the planet, such as the use of energy at home and while travelling, what they eat and how they dispose of waste, says the New York Times. Environmental education offers an alternative to the plugged-in lives we’ve become accustomed to, but people need to feel connected to nature in order to want to protect it. Encourage your children to go outdoors and get active. This not only addresses health concerns, such as obesity and depression, it also allows them to be more physically active and creative, and thus build a connection with the outdoors. According to Planet Learning Tree, environmental education also provides a platform for children to learn the skills required for the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Engagement leads to respect
Getting younger children excited about nature is easy. And there are plenty of ways to get them to participate in outdoor activities. Natural Habitat Adventures suggests you start with a walk around your neighbourhood to chat about the plant and animal species that live there, take them camping or plant a garden. Use the technologies they love to drive home the importance of looking after nature — for example, watch a documentary on birds together or find a fun online game that teaches them how to protect the environment. By teaching children to be respectful of the planet, we can actively slow down some of the many threats to our planet.
Show them how to make a difference
Children repeat the actions of the adults around them, so the easiest way to get them to participate in conservation efforts is by setting a good example. Show children that through small everyday actions — at home, at school and with their friends — they can make a big impact. Statistics South Africa reports that only 10 percent of waste in the country is recycled and that SA is fast running out of landfill space. Use this as motivation to create a dedicated recycling space at home with your children, then show them how to reduce waste and recycle certain materials.
“Environmental education is not only the domain of teachers. By displaying their own involvement in environmental initiatives, parents not only set a good example for their kids but also help to iterate acceptable behaviour towards our planet.”
Pieter Twine, General Manager at MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet, adds: “Conservation education goes a long way in ensuring that wildlife is protected for future generations.
“We are proud to give conservation organisations the ability to continue their great work. Joining a community loyalty programme such as MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet also allows you and your children to support the causes that play an active role in conserving our world’s natural resources.”
Sign up to MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet for free at www.myschool.co.za or download the App. Each time you swipe your card at a participating retailer, a donation is made to your choice of beneficiaries on your behalf and at no cost to you.