By Mykala Thomas, Guest Blogger
Teaching your kids about the environment may seem like a tall task. But it takes only a few short steps to your backyard to get started. Use these activities to explore the wonders of your world, right outside your back door.
Instead of lions and elephants, search for the smaller creatures in your backyard. Look for insects, spiders, birds, even rabbits or foxes. If they can’t find the critters themselves, can they find evidence of them? Talk about how they make their homes in our yards and why it’s essential to treat them with respect.
This is a variation on the safari theme, with your kids on the hunt in your backyard. Use a printable scavenger hunt worksheet as a guide, or make your own customized version. Keep it simple for younger kids with quests like leaves, twigs, or rocks. The hunt can get more specific with older kids, and you can use clues to make it even more complex.
Play with the power of wind by making a wind turbine. You can make your own or use a store-bought pinwheel to show younger kids how the wind pushes the blades. Explain how turbines collect wind power to generate energy. Have older kids build their own mini-wind turbine that can power a small bulb.
Plant the seeds of environmental love by growing a garden. Start small, assign age-appropriate tasks, and let kids help choose what to plant. Direct them toward native plants that have a better chance to survive in Memphis. Want your kids to eat more veggies? Try planting them: chances are good they’ll eat what they grow. A pollinator garden will attract birds, bees, and butterflies. Teach kids how these wonder-workers contribute to our food supply and how they can appreciate bees from a distance.
Any chance your kids would enjoy making dirt? Ok, compost isn’t actually dirt, but it’s a soil-like, organic material your kids can help create. Start by teaching them what you can and can’t compost. Then, have them contribute to the cause by adding your family’s scraps to a compost container. When it’s ready, your kids can help spread it in your yard.
Many kids love digging in the dirt, so use this ground-level exploration as a teaching opportunity. What do they see when they unearth the earth? Rocks? Sand? Creepy crawlies? What happens when they pull a weed out of the ground? Does the root follow? How deep does the root grow? Dig even deeper with soil experiments you can do with your kids.
After getting down and dirty, it’s time to clean up! Get kids involved with yard clean-up to help maintain a happy, healthy yard and learn about the growth cycle. For example, getting your kids to help with tree care, like picking up leaves, is a great way to teach them how some trees lose and grow back their leaves each year. Start when they’re young and add to their responsibilities as they age.
Your kids’ environmental education can start where you live by exploring your backyard. When you nurture their interest in nature, they’ll better understand their environment and the need to protect it.
Mykala Thomas learned from her grandmother to respect and nurture the land. Now, she and her children work on community garden projects in neighborhoods with few grocery stores. She loves to write about all things that grow.
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