My Environmental Education Philosophy
Educating people, specifically children, about wildlife and their natural environment is the most important part of wildlife conservation. People rarely feel a connection with something that they don’t understand, and if there is no connection, there will be no desire to conserve it.
By educating children about the importance of intact native ecosystems through outreach, and by getting them excited about the flora and fauna in their own backyards, we can ensure that more people will care enough to protect it in the future.
Bringing Nature to Kids, Wherever They Are
While visiting a wildlife sanctuary or large park is wonderful, nature is all around us - all we need to do is step outside and enjoy it! I like to encourage people to take the time to get to know the wildlife in their own backyards so that they develop a real sense of place. Tracking the movements of squirrels and chickadees can be just as rewarding as catching a glimpse of a rare bird.
I am currently the Director of Education with Madison Audubon Society. Much of the education work that I do with MAS is centered around the idea that nature is everywhere. While Madison Audubon provides nature education for everyone, many of our programs target inner city kids that don't have access to larger wild spaces. We bring kids on nature walks around their school grounds or in the neighborhoods surrounding their community centers. Kids are encouraged to explore a familiar area using a totally new lens! They study local wildlife and are empowered to become scientists by asking questions and discovering their own answers.
Nature education - specifically education IN nature - benefits kids in so many ways besides just connecting them to wildlife. It gives them the confidence to try something new in a space they might not be familiar with. It allows them to ask questions and explore the world in a different way. It lowers stress levels, and helps them concentrate better when they're back in the classroom. Most importantly, it gives them a safe place to retreat from their problems and just enjoy being kids!
To learn more about the wonderful education programs provided by Madison Audubon Society, go check out their website.
Teaching Kids about Climate Change
Climate change is arguably one of the most important threats to our environment. Our world will change in so many ways and we will all be affected, wildlife and humans alike. We can work hard to create new forms of green energy, more efficient cars, and protect habitat, but future generations of land stewards will be our greatest hope.
Many educators have trouble getting children to connect with large abstract ideas like climate change. The topic seems so huge and far removed from our daily activities that people can't relate to it. My approach was to teach climate change through the lens of birds. Familiar animals that we see every day. Animals that kids can empathize with.
My biggest project working with Madison Audubon Society was to create our Climate Change Curriculum. These 10 lessons span the school year, not only teaching kids about climate change, but also leading them through their own year-long phenology science project. These lessons are classroom tested, engaging, interactive, and ready to get kids thinking critically about their world. Best of all, the lessons and all supporting materials are available for FREE at the Madison Audubon website.
I have taught these lessons in six classrooms already, and have supported teachers who are using them with their own classes. It's an amazing thing watching kids grow from barely being able to identify a Blue Jay to casually use terms like "phenological mismatch". I'm always impressed with how easily they grasp complex concepts if they are presented in a way that is fun and easy to understand.
To find out more about the lessons, read stories about these lessons in action, or to download them for yourself, please visit the Madison Audubon website.