I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you appreciate how important sharks are, you likely also appreciate how important the environment is. Where did your appreciation come from? You might be like me and have your parents to thank for your love of nature. But how do you foster an appreciation for nature in your own family? As an informal science educator and family member, I’ve provided some suggestions on family environmental engagement based on my experiences and observations.
It almost goes without saying: part of appreciating the outdoors requires getting outside. Have your family put their screens down for a few hours and encourage them to explore the outdoors, even if it’s just for a walk around the block! Explore a local nature center or go on a hike in your neighborhood. Don’t take urban wildlife for granted; there are plenty of interesting organisms and ecosystems to be found in your own backyard!
Learn together and explore your interests.
Do your children love marine life? Birds of prey? Butterflies? Rocks? Whatever your family is interested in, encourage them to learn more about those subjects. Is your child passionate about helping dogs and cats? See if you can meet or shadow a veterinarian together. Are they fascinated by tigers? Ask your local zoo if there is a tiger keeper your child could interview. Is your child concerned about trash in the ocean? Help them organize a straw-free campaign at their school! There are all kinds of resources that can help your family learn even more about their environmental interests.
Develop an outdoor routine.
Make nature a part of your family’s routine. Whether it’s a daily walk or a monthly trip to an outdoor exploration center, it’s important (and fun!) to ingrain nature into the daily life of your family. Establishing a sit spot can be helpful when setting up an outdoor routine. A sit spot is a place in nature that you choose and visit regularly. Creating a sit spot allows you and your family to become familiar with a particular outdoor space and observe the organisms that live there. Read more about sit spots here.
Attend local outdoor events as a family.
Get in the habit of checking newspapers and social media for special outdoor events in your area. Your community probably offers many year-round opportunities to explore your local environment as a family. In the past year, my family and I have attended several engaging events in our area including a low-tide beach walk, a bird-watching hike, and a natural history trivia night!
Many nature organizations provide chances to engage with conservation efforts through volunteer opportunities! Zoos and aquariums often have keeper-in-training programs for children and adults that allow members of the public to shadow and help animal biologists. Many parks have regular clean-up opportunities that the whole family can help with! Citizen science projects always need help from the community when gathering data. If your family has a favorite nature organization, contact them and inquire about possible volunteer opportunities.
This is hardly an exhaustive list of the ways that you can inspire a love of nature in your family.
What other outdoor activities do you do with your family? Please share in the comments!
GUEST BLOGGER AND TFUI OFFICER MARGARET HANZLICK-BURTON
WHAT ELSE MARGARET HAS WRITTEN:
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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