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|Getting to know nature|
WHEN should environmental education begin? In Primary One or kindergarten? The answer is – earlier.Environmental education, based on life experiences, plays a critical role in shaping life-long attitudes, values and patterns of behaviour toward natural environments.
I.S. Shanmugaraj, head of the Malaysian Nature Society’s education department, says: “Young children learn about the environment by interacting with it. So, educators and other adults must attend to the frequency, nature and quality of child-environment interactions during their early years.
“Many kids have limited opportunities for such experiences. In fact, regardless of where they live, they spend most of their time in settings, or engaged in activities, that keep them isolated from the natural world.”
Recreation tends to be indoors (such as watching TV); they go around in cars or other motor vehicles, and programmes at day-care centres – where many children spend most of their waking hours – tend to be oriented more towards the classroom than the outdoors.
“The result is that many young children are at risk of never developing positive attitudes and feelings toward the natural environment, or being familiar with their environment,” Shanmugaraj adds.
Where to begin
Start with simple experiences. Young children learn best through experiences that relate to what they know and are comfortable with. Thus, start in an environment they are familiar with. For example, focus on a single tree in the backyard or playground before venturing into a heavily-wooded area.
Provide frequent positive experiences outdoors. Because children learn best through direct experience, they need to be immersed in the outdoor environment to learn about it.
Frequency is important. A one-off trip to a park or nature reserve would have limited impact on young children. Provide on-going, simple experiences involving trees, flowers and insects in environments close to home or school rather than spend time and energy arranging for day trips to unfamiliar places that your child would seldom visit.
Experience nature together
Children need a large amount of fatty acids found in milk and some types of food to develop the brain and eyes, especially in the early years. Nutrients such as Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA), Arachidonic Acid (AA), Choline, Taurine are important as they help promote cognitive, visual and psychomotor skills.
With the right nutrients that boost eye-to-brain coordination, your child is ready to expand her world, hand-in-hand with Nature. – Article courtesy of Abbott Nutrition Malaysia