Summertime = the Perfect Time to Help Kids Connect with the Natural World

by | Jul 9, 2023 | Environmental Education

With the 4th of July now behind us, we’re in peak summer, the season of outdoor fun. Even those of us who aren’t especially keen on things like camping or hiking or getting away to the beach usually find ourselves spending far more time outside and in natural or simply green spaces than at any other time of the year.

Which is to say that summer abounds with opportunities for encouraging children’s awareness of the natural environment and nurturing a love and respect for it. The Earth Warriors supplement to Yoga Calm offers plenty of ideas for doing this in a way that integrates environmental learning with social-emotional learning and mindful movement.

Read on to learn more in this updated version of a post we ran back in 2021, when we first introduced Earth Warriors to the world…

Modern life has its benefits, of course, but also costs – most notably in the increasing distance it’s put between us and the natural world. Many of us grew up thinking of nature as something totally separate from human life. Today’s technology often widens the gap as we live increasingly mediated lives, tethered to our devices.

Is it any wonder, then, that, collectively, we’ve done a less-than-stellar job of taking care of our environment? If you don’t feel or even perceive any connection to the natural world, can you really be expected to respect it, let alone act as a good steward, even as our climate crisis demands we take action?

Fortunately, we don’t have to continue on that trajectory. We can – indeed, must – change course.

While this involves a wide array of actions, we believe one of the most profound, influential, and enduring is to help reconnect youth with nature so they develop a sense of environmental stewardship, helping the natural world thrive even as it helps us thrive.

It’s About Relationships

Hearing about environmental destruction can be scary and stressful for anyone, but especially children. Sometimes, as was the case with activist Greta Thunberg, those feelings can be channeled into action. But “fight” is only one possibility in the face of stress. Many instead react with “flight” or inertia (“freeze”).

children exploring forestBecause of this, we believe we can accomplish more by appealing to children’s natural (if you will) interest in exploring the natural world – observing its movements, such as the play of ocean waves or the wonder of some flowers opening their petals in the morning and closing them at night; collecting treasures such as rocks and leaves just because they’re cool; instinctively interacting and bonding with animals they meet.

When we facilitate and encourage kids’ outdoor explorations, we help them create what can become a lifelong loving relationship with the Earth. We are moved to take good care of that which – and those who – we love.

From Vision to Action

This is why we rolled out a new environmental education supplement to Yoga Calm, Earth Warriors. More than 10 years in the making, it aims to help reconnect our youth with nature and help them become good stewards of the only home we have (visions of colonizing the moon or Mars notwithstanding).

Earth Warriors coverDeveloped by Leah Shuyler and Lynea Gillen, the Earth Warriors curriculum outlines, step-by-step, how to cultivate Love, Knowledge, and Action through dozens of practical, playful activities and lesson plans. Blending yoga, ecopsychology, mindfulness, storytelling, art, and simple inquiries into a unique format, Earth Warriors teaches students environmental awareness through their bodies, senses, and emotions.

Activities and lesson plans are categorized under the four elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. This framework provides a simple and effective way to conceptualize activities, provide experiential learning, and adapt activities to different ages, abilities and settings, including classrooms, camps, yoga studios, homes, and more. The activities also meet many K-8 health, science, and physical education standards and can be combined with other curricula.

And it’s all put together in a handbook that will show you things like how to

  • Connect with “backdoor nature” (e.g., street trees, parks, schoolyards, backyards).
  • Develop skills for scientific inquiry, such as observation, nature journaling, and developing hypotheses.
  • Inspire and cultivate imagination with stories about youth Earth Warriors from around the world.
  • Listen to youths’ feelings related to environmental loss and use nature to restore a sense of belonging and connection.
  • Use story and myth to build a relationship with animals and the environment and develop a language of connectedness.
  • Provide opportunities to steward the plants, animals and natural areas in our immediate environment.
  • And much more!

Get your copy of Earth Warriors now in the Yoga Calm store!

Middle image by Crystal E Zobel, via Wikimedia Commons

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