Environmental education is not only important for the protection of the natural environment, it also greatly contributes to the development of a child’ personality. Practical experience forms the basis: a child protects and takes care of what he/she has learned about.Right kindergarten practices help develop habits that result in an environmentally friendly lifestyle, which is an example to the parents and others around. Our kindergarten pedagogue, who graduated in 2016 and who’s been since working in a kindergarten in Óbuda, writes about this extremely important topic. Written by Noémi Vásárhelyi.
Kindergarteners live in the same environment as adults, yet they relate differently to most things than we do. The simplest things that we got used to long ago may fill them with awe, sometimes making them stare for minutes. To us this often seems boring and it can make us impatient, but it’s precisely this, the curiosity and openness of children, that allows us to teach them so much.
Special Dates and International Days
At the beginning of every week in the kindergarten we discuss about the actual topic, usually an aspect of our environment, which we then approach in multiple ways: by stories, poems, songs, sayings, rhymes. Our topics match actual special dates, although there are some that appear regularly. One of these is keeping our environment clean and orderly.
We watch nature change with the seasons, we make walks around the yard or in the neighborhood. On World Water Day we play games involving water, we observe properties of water, or we make a short trip to a nearby beach where we collect pebbles and clams, which will then become some kind of creative product – and we’ve just arrived at recycling.
Reuse and Recycling
We teach children how to separate recyclable waste and why we always throw trash and garbage in the refuse bin. (Of course, the amount of new information we can offer to a child depends also on parental background) Children draw on recycled paper scrapped at companies. We often make toys from recycled materials as well.
We also talked about how the distance “travelled” by food to get to the store affects our environment. We made canvas bags, which can be used to carry vegetables or pastries while shopping.
Appreciating drinking water
At the same time we consider it important to raise conscious water consumers. We discuss why it’s important to preserve the purity of water and how to use only as much water as we need. We teach them to close the tap while brushing teeth or washing hands.
Love and protection of flora and fauna
Zoo pedagogues bring small animals to the kindergarten, and children learn a lot from them, too: how to take care of animals, for example. The more good memories a child has, the closer he/she is to plants, animals or even water, the more he/she will do to help keep it its proper condition and habitat. That’s exactly why we visit the Zoo or the Bear Farm.
And on Earth Day, we plant flowers and talk about why flowers are so important, and that not only good work, but growing takes time, too. We make them realize that every plant is beautiful right where they are, we don’t need to pick them to admire them.
Setting an example
So we approach our environment in many ways almost every day, we form bonds, we give good memories. We do all this by playing, as it is the most common and most important activity for a kindergartener. No matter how much we play, though, setting an example is paramount, since children learn through imitation. At the same time, due to family being the primary educational environment, the good behaviors I show “are for nothing”, what the child sees at home from his/her beloved parents is much more important. It doesn’t matter if I tell the child not to throw away trash if he/she sees the parents casually flicking cigarette buds or not bothering with finding the nearest garbage can. Still, there’s always the chance to reverse things. Children are very flexible, it’s always possible to pay more attention to our Earth.
So, dear parents (and future parents), with a bit of attentiveness and joint efforts it will be “child’s play” to raise adults for whom the protection of their (our) environment is perfectly natural.
As a kindergarten teacher I work everyday to lay a foundation together with the children, which will help them become useful members of society, and, most of all, be happy. Together with the other teachers and nannies we strive shoulder to shoulder to be able to present the world to the children as colorfully and interestingly as possible, and to show them how they can protect it.
It fills me with joy when, upon returning from Christmas break, they tell me about how much the Luca day wheat we’d planted together grew, or that they visited the Zoo during the weekend and what kind of animals they’ve seen, or when they warn each other in the yard that every plant is beautiful where it is, and so we can take delight in them for a long time (something we talk a lot about with them).
It’s even better to hear “I was afraid of this animal but after petting it,” – with the help of a zoo pedagogue – “I realized it’s not that scary.” But the best is when they tell me that last weekend, instead of sitting at home, they went out into nature to have a walk/trip.
I believe that effects are reciprocal and just as parents affect children, children can also affect their parents and set a good example!
Source of featured image: flickr.com
Translated by Ádám Hittaller