Our future leaders will be most affected by worsening environmental conditions, and they will also bear the burden of fixing it. In order for the adults of the future to be equipped to take on the lifelong challenge of reversing climate damage, they need to be educated about it now. Environmental education is an essential part of early childhood learning, and it is our responsibility to teach our youth the skills they need to create a healthy life and sustainable future.
The aim of environmental education during childhood is to teach a care for nature, in addition to studying it. Environmental Education is defined as “A lifelong learning process that leads to an informed and involved citizenry having the creative problem-solving skills, scientific and social literacy, ethical awareness and sensitivity for the relationship between humans and the environment, and commitment to engage in responsible individual and cooperative actions. By these actions, environmentally literate citizens will help ensure an ecologically and economically sustainable environment.” Successful environmental education starting in early childhood, creates environmentally literate people.
It is of the utmost importance that our youth develop the skills and the desire to care for our world, because the fate of it is in their hands. In a person's early years of life they learn values and behaviors that stay with them through adulthood, and define their character. The logic behind ongoing environmental education and literacy is that it instills an appreciation and understanding of how our world’s natural systems work. With appreciation comes caring. When a child enjoys living and playing in nature, caring for and protecting their local and global environment come more naturally. “They take action and are involved in their community to help sustain our natural resources so that people can create and enjoy a high quality life for themselves and the future generations.”
Activity based learning experiences in Environmental Education are an engaging and fun way for youth of all ages to learn and play in a natural setting. Children in their early childhood years learn primarily through their senses, and from direct experiences. They develop an understanding about the world through play, exploration, and creative activities, according to the International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education.
Environmental Education centered around a garden is an accessible and fruitful method for learning about the natural world through activity. Garden learning can happen at home, in a community garden, and at any school or place of learning. With some teamwork and initiative from the adults in a child’s life, meaningful garden experiences can be cultivated almost anywhere! “The sense of accomplishment from seeing the plants grow will help create positive connotations between nature and self. It will also teach your child patience, care taking and teamwork.”
Exposure to learning in natural spaces is more important than ever. Excitingly, this need is being met with more and more green spaces being cultivated in larger cities like New York, NY! Harlem-based Shugah Baybees is an interactive child development center providing quality child care in a safe, healthy, and positive environment for preschool children to thrive in.
This year, Shugah Baybees and Plant Group Environmental Consultants teamed up to create a community learning garden for the Early Childhood Educational Center! Their “Shugah Garden” encourages healthy eating and introduces the kids to scientific concepts. The kids enjoy being outdoors, love digging in the soil, getting dirty, creating things and watching plants grow! This outdoor learning provides fresh air and a setting to learn more about the environment, while playing and learning in the new garden.
Along with our partners New Brooklyn Farms, the Plant Group Team helped design and build the edible learning garden for Shugah Baybees NYC. The landscape was designed with edible perennial fruit and vegetables. The kids joined in the fun, and helped plant the seeds in their new learning garden. Plant Group also collaborated in the environmental education curriculum design. The Shugah Baybees community garden holds several programs, with the help of Plant Group, including community composting system and food scrap drop-off program, community outreach, fresh produce giveaways, composting workshops, live music, and all-ages programming.