Trekking through a nearby state forest, I stopped dead in my tracks. I was appalled. A middle-aged man - who should know better - was openly defacing an iconic bridge. Have individuals lost respect for nature or is unaccountability leading their impulses?
Sadly, the increase of destruction and defacement of our protected lands is becoming an all too common trend. These horrific acts of misconduct exude an inappropriate behavior that, if we are not careful, will provide a poor example for future generations. Teaching children about the importance of our protected lands and setting exemplary behavior is more necessary now than ever. Through education, we can stop the destruction and encourage the next generation to preserve our precious lands through respect.
Partake in Outdoor Recreation
Children learn best by experience. Expose your children to the outdoors on an ongoing basis. Starting at a young age, children will develop a sense of attachment and form a lasting bond with the natural world. Infrequent outdoor activity and later exposure in life does not build the deep-rooted values embedded in nature. Early education on the natural world through exposure will lead to a deeper appreciation. After all, how can we expect our children to appreciate something they have never experienced?
Teach the Old Sayings, Pack It In Pack It Out
The tried and true motto “pack it in pack it out” is a testament to live by. When you are out in nature, mom is not there to pick up after you. There are no garbage fairies to magically remove trash. Teaching kids to be responsible for themselves builds respect and understanding, and in turn, teaches them how to interact with the natural world. When you are out hiking or camping, discuss the effects of litter and why it is important to leave no trace. Odds are that if this value is instilled at a young age, children will carry it with them for a lifetime.
Visit the Visitor Center
The adventure of exploration is thrilling. It is even more thrilling when you understand the area. Before embarking on your outdoor excursion, pop into the visitor center. Look at the artifacts, watch the movie, and read the facts on display. Engage children with the history of the area. When you are out exploring tell children to keep an eye out for examples of what they learned. Building knowledge will help in building appreciation.
Nature Activities and Projects
Engage the wonderful imagination of your child's mind with fun nature activities and art projects. Collect leaves from various trees and see how many you can identify. Paint leaves and make prints of the pattern. Grab a pair of binoculars and see how many different bird species you can find. Taking part in exciting projects will connect children through hands on experience.
When you are teaching your children about the beauty of the great outdoors, lead by example. Your actions influence your child's. Be conscious of what you do and show your children the proper way to behave. If you have respect for our land, your children will have respect for our land.