Getting Kids Outdoors and Connecting with Nature

National Wildlife Federation has worked for decades to connect children and youth with nature, inspiring children through Ranger Rick magazine, working with educators to get kids learning outdoors through projects such as the new Discovery Hill habitat (a.k.a Rocks to Roots), and helping parents find new ways to engage their children outside. That’s why we loved this article for educators, “YOU CAN GET YOUR STUDENTS OUTSIDE — and Still Meet Your State Standards” recently posted on the Children & Nature Network.

The author provides cheap tips for educators (and parents) to help connect children with nature while increasing student’s achievement levels and decreasing behavior issues:

Is There a Window in Your Classroom?

If the answer is yes, you have an opportunity to invite the rich world of birding into your student’s lives. Once birds “find” the food source, you will have an inspiring way to discuss the changing seasons, patterns of migration, habitat, and the list will grow as your students find ways to use this fascinating new science tool to explore and understand their world.

The ideas in the article are easy to do and, in some cases, completely free.

You can also join NWF’s Be Out There campaign on Facebook to learn about other fun ideas! You will get family-friendly tips to motivate your family to spend time outdoors all year round. If you are having troubles getting your older kids to unplug, this insightful Forbes article may help.

Good luck with your first day of school and stay tuned for more information about Discovery Hill, Austin’s first demonstration schoolyard habitat!

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Top 5 Inspiring Reasons for Parents to Root for Green Education

Schoolyard habitats as outdoor classrooms are one of the most effective and fun ways to provide environmental education. Kevin Coyle, NWF’s Vice President of Education Programs, pointed out that over 90% of U.S. schools fail to include environmental education as part of their regular core curriculum despite the many proven benefits. Check out his blog that lists five great reasons why parents should support environmental education in their schools.

So here’s a quick peek at the top 5 reasons, but we recommend reading Mr. Coyle’s blog for the full information:

1. Your kids will be happier, higher-performing students!
“Through 15 years of research and testing, environmental education has been shown to improve the average student’s classroom performance. Marginal students become solid performers and good students become great students.”

2. Your kids will learn “executive function.”
“Children who sit isolated at a computer all day need to get out more. Most American kids are losing touch with the skills their parents developed when they were gathering together, inventing games, choosing sides, making up rules and learning how to work together building forts, arranging picnics or more.”

3. Your kids will be more motivated and better prepared for college.
“The American high school drop-out rate is 30% and can be as high as 50%-60% in large urban school systems. Can environmental education help kids stay in school and move on to college? Yes.”

4. Your kids will be ready for the emerging green economy.
“Economists predict that environmental and energy subjects will have the same importance in the coming 20 years that the Internet and computer technology had in the past 20 years.”

5. Your kids (and their kids) will lead healthier lives.
“Environmental education has the side benefit of greater awareness of environmental health risks… There are countless examples in the health care field of how mindless exposure to environmental risks such as asbestos, toxic chemicals, ozone and water pollution have had lasting adverse health effects.”

As the blog noted, environmental education comes in many forms such as “nature lessons, energy awareness, water conservation, recycling, field trips and community service projects.” There are so many ways to include it in the school curriculum.

In Austin, we are building a schoolyard habitat that will operate as an outdoor classroom to educate Austin children and train teachers how to effectively teach environmental education. We have received encouragement and support from local businesses and clubs such as the Austin Council of PTAs. We hope parents like you will get involved and support this endeavor to make green education part of the regular school curriculum in Austin.

Take action by supporting Austin’s first demonstration wildlife habitat and outdoor classroom: http://bit.ly/13h0OSC