MOLLY R GASKIN,
Pointe-à-Pierre Waterfowl Trust
ENVIRONMENTAL education plays an important role in conservation, as the pressures currently on planet Earth call for new awareness. It is vital for the survival of human societies. Environmental education and public awareness have a long-term task of fostering and strengthening attitudes compatible with this awareness.
Environmental education is important in all areas of learning and endeavor and can be introduced and taught in any area of education. Children need a wide variety of experiences to facilitate concept development, especially in their early years. Concepts such as interdependence, adaptations, cooperative attitudes, sensitivity to the rights of others, and group interaction skills, and this can only come with an appreciation of the way people and all life fit together into an ecological whole. Environmental education today is a matter of survival.
However, it should not only be taught in schools, it should be taken outside. Outdoor education is an extension of the learning experience beyond the four walls of the classroom, bringing the written word to life. It is an attempt to bring to the lives of children and young people the wonder of intimacy with the outdoors. It should take place during school time and be part of the curriculum. There are things that are best to do outside of the classroom. Outdoor education and fieldwork offer children and young people the chance to experience first-hand that they are surrounded by some of the eternal processes of life.
The inappropriate use of planet Earth through pollution and mismanagement has found mankind with one of the greatest ecological problems in its history. The model of society has changed, life has become very organized. Too many of our children grow up in an environment where they have little or no exposure to the real, natural world and to the great elemental forces that govern the interrelationships of all life around them, nor the understanding of the urgent need for a state of being. harmony between human beings and planet Earth. Today’s student has lost touch with his natural roots. Whether he likes it or not, man is part of and needs the earth. It needs fresh air, water and soil to support the plant and animal communities on which it itself depends for its very existence.
Outdoor environmental education can provide exposure, understanding and attitudes that control the gap in human needs.
Through this informal setting, the environmental educator can pass on new ideas and suggestions to the teacher. When an ordinary teacher and his class visit an open-air research center or a wildlife sanctuary, the teacher as well as the children are exposed to the techniques of working with a class in a “roofless laboratory”. Visiting such a center should give the teacher and students strong motivation and ideas for many weeks of extended activities in schools.
Part of the goal of environmental education is to develop citizens aware of the appropriate use of resources. We urgently need to create a more caring and environmentally conscious population, whether they are doctors, lawyers, industry or governments. To do this, there must be a spark of worry. How much success we have depends on how that spark of worry burns, and that spark, teachers, parents, and all of us, must strike in the minds and consciousness of our children, and they will react.
In the final analysis and in the long run, the greatest contribution of environmental education and the outdoor classroom will be to show each child the positioning of the human being in his rightful place in the universe, part of the Earth. If there isn’t too much we can change today, we can change tomorrow.
Earth Day Tip
Give up forks
If you are ordering take-out food from home, there is no need to use plastic forks and knives. One of the easiest ways to be more environmentally friendly is to simply ask the restaurant not to include napkins, utensils, or condiments with your order.