As parents, we painstakingly educate our children. In all things, experience over lectures is the best way to ensure everyone fully comprehends the depth of what we are teaching. The same applies to teaching our kids to respect nature. It’s a win/win really. Getting our kids outside is healthy, calming, and invigorating and it also offers the opportunity for them to see everything in its natural habitat, which gives them perspective and a desire to save the environment. In addition, traveling gives them a worldly view of other cultures’ preservation, sustainability and environmental concerns!
Travel and Environmental Awareness
Orca in St. Andrews, NB. Photo Credit: Dan Kellogg
Let me just put it out there that I am a person who adheres to the idea that rules were made to be broken. I’m incidentally not the best rule follower on the planet. In fact, I personally tend to despise man-made rules. One of my biggest pet peeves is being told what to do.
Typically this is because the rules make no sense, like not ending a sentence with a preposition or the fact that you can’t buy a Big Gulp in NYC or that jaywalking is against the law!
But I understand that some rules are necessary. Like not swerving in and out of the lines on the highways, paying our debts and like, you know, not stealing, assaulting or murdering someone — these are essential to a peaceful nation. I get these rules.
I also follow the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I hone this lesson at home with my kids, though I swear it’s fruitless, they don’t get it.
What they do get is a full-on respect for nature. Having been raised in the Catholic faith and virtually living in the outdoors, they love, literally love, every aspect of creation. The mountains, the rivers, the oceans and lakes, and the absolute last thing any one of them would do is to destroy such beauty.
Destruction comes in many forms, from littering to careless usage and I believe respect for nature is something we must all be taught. I was a litterer as a kid; embarrassed to admit it, but I was. I didn’t make the connection between my respect for life and a respect for nature. I make it a priority to teach my children this critical connection.
It wasn’t until I started spending a lot of my time in the pristine outdoors that I developed an appreciation of its beauty.
Today, it’s amazing to me how careless people really are with the environment. Traveling full-time, I’m frustrated at how much trash litters our highways, our parks and our trails! I’m frustrated to find a shower or a sink left on in a campground bathroom and even to see one commuter per car during rush hour.
I’m the ultimate environmental oxymoron. I understand the need to “remain on the trail” when hiking, but I’m perturbed it’s necessary to make it a rule. I understand the need to regulate the number of people on the Ruby Horsethief stretch of river on the Colorado River, but having been there and seen how people leave the campsites, I fully support the Rangers who enforce these rules. I know it’s necessary for us to all work together to save the environment.
So it’s imperative that we educate our children to be better purveyors of our beautiful lands! Our children are our world’s future, it’s our responsibility to teach them about nature and how to preserve it.
Here are three of the best ways to ensure your child enjoys nature and is invested in preserving it for the next generation…
1. Respect For Human Life
Respect for human life means respecting all of God’s creation. We, as environmentalists must engage with our environment, our natural resources, our open spaces and our State and National Parks. We should be teaching our kids that it is their responsibility to ensure that they live sustainably so that there are enough resources for everyone.
This may entail teaching your kids to conserve water by turning off the faucet while they brush their teeth, or wash dishes. It may even mean you teach your children about eating local, organic foods. We travel full-time and have made it a habit to visit farmer’s markets, not only is the produce way way better tasting, it’s also so much healthier!
I also, in the past three years, have started feeding my family foods closer to nature. Whole foods, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. When they start to see the connection between themselves, the food they eat, and nature, they will have an A-ha moment!
2. Respect For Animal Life
Take a nature walk, camp in your backyard, or better yet, get out into the national forest or BLM and check out the wildlife. Every living thing has a purpose and meaning. I hate bugs, but they all have a purpose, though I still can’t help but think mosquitoes are the exception.
Start a garden, teach your kids about earthworms and the benefits they have on the soil. Teach them about squirrels and bears and foxes and all the different birds in your area. Build a birdhouse, plant roses (hummingbirds love them), on hikes point out berries and other sources of food for wildlife, plant a butterfly garden … whatever, teaching your children to respect and care for wildlife is a great stepping stone for teaching them to respect the habitat in which they live!
3. Respect for the Environment
Teaching children to respect the environment begins in the very early years of their lives. They learn through actual life experiences, such as hiking, climbing, rafting, etc. These experiences play a critical role in shaping their views and their perspectives on the natural environment. When a child is raised believing the forests and rivers, cliffs and canyons are theirs, their level of responsibility increases.
I can tell you camping and hiking, climbing, and rafting, kayaking and SUP’ing (Stand Up Paddleboard) has had a profound effect on my children. They take Leave No Trace very seriously and always leave their areas cleaner than they were before we arrived.
It’s virtually impossible to develop a respect for something that you don’t understand or a love for something you don’t utilize. Get your kids outside on hikes, get them on your rivers, and teach them a love for their environment that you can’t comprehend from a book.
Organic Part of Life
Because of our extensive use of the natural environment, we are organically invested in safeguarding it for future generations. We participate in local river cleanups, we take it upon ourselves to clear parking lots and trail heads of trash and various other proactive actions to ensure our National Forests, State Parks and other natural resources are protected and respected!
In addition we travel and are therefore privvy to other cultures and their triumphs and struggles with preservation and sustainability. Our children are able to experience the beauty of the entire country — the breathtaking beauty of the desert, the warm waters of the south, the Appalachian mountains in the East and the uncharted territories of northern Canada. Of course, they have a vested interest in keeping these places preserved!