Children Who Spend Time in Nature Will Always Care for It

“When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength.”
— Maria Montessori

We believe there is an urgent need to bring a paradigm shift in education, especially in the early years, so that children’s tendencies to explore nature will become the basis of our education system. Our focus should be on nature-play, which has the power to develop a healthy child in terms of physical, psychological, emotional, social, and intellectual terms. Nature-play is not a new discovery when it comes to educating young minds; it’s the only medium used by man throughout history to learn and discover the hidden magic of the universe.

Environmental researchers are constantly reminding us of the dangers and threats our world is facing starting with global warming and extending to extreme water crises. Scientists and communities, governments and agencies are struggling to combat the damage. We believe that short term, we have to take immediate measures to minimize the damaging effects. But if we want to work on a long-term basis, we have to start from scratch; to produce a generation of people who not only think about solutions to the vast environmental problems, but also participate in creating a sustainable environment. This can only be done through a revolutionary nature-based education system with campaigns and ‘green’ programs, especially in the early years to instill love for nature: children who spend time in nature will always care for it. This is a fact which we are witnessing. People who spend their childhood in nature are the ones who are taking the initiative to identify environmental problems, to combat them by offering solutions, to choose environmental-related professions, and to work with their hearts to save the earth and its habitats from disaster

Instead of developing their own educational modules, educators should be observing children in their natural surroundings to see how they learn. It’s our observation that children are naturally curious. Researchers are proving that educators can use nature as a force to attract natural curiosity and exploration tendencies in children. The “immense concentration of a child” is the natural outcome when he works in nature; we do not need to do anything to build up children’s attention spans or speed up their curiosity — it’s already there. It’s a chain reaction: nature awakens natural curiosity, which leads to exploration and ends up in discovery; that’s how humans learn. “A book of botany or zoology has the power to stimulate the already curious human mind, but nature has the power to change this curiosity into discovery” (Erum 2010, Children & Nature Network blog). 

I have observed this in my students. Their senses sharpen dramatically as soon as they are taken outside. Their sense of wonder appears, leading them to investigate like scientists: „ They discover the laws of nature every day. „ As they play, their senses alert them to the different sizes, colors, and shapes of rocks. „ They experience the amazing strength in a piece of rock as compared to a piece of leaf. „ They discover the law of gravity when they throw one of those rocks and observe the glorious effect it has on water when it lands in a pool. „ They learn about climate, seasons, weather, and all about botany when they play in seasonal gardens. Ultimately, children understand the whole landscape all by playing in nature.

My message is simple. When we start realizing the power of discovery on children’s learning and lives, we will be able to champion environmental stewardship. Let’s change the way we educate young minds; let’s connect children with nature.

Erum Kamran works as a Montessori Directress, Play expert, Nature-based curriculum developer, and children’s rights advocate. She founded the Children and Nature Network Asia (CNNA) in Asia to address connections between children and nature in educational and social surroundings through Teacher training programs and Children workshops.

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