The culture of childhood that played outdoors is gone, and children's everyday life has definitely shifted indoors. This is especially true in the city mainly because of "the culture of fear" in urban areas. That is why I try to expose my students to the natural world, but I need some help.
I teach Pre-K to 18 wonderful children in the Bronx.
Most of the children come from low socio-economic backgrounds and many are second language learners. In our school, 100% of the students receive free lunch. We are a large, urban school in New York City and many of the children come from families who are struggling financially. Our families value education and are excited when they see their children learning and being exposed to new things. I have noticed that many students who are coming to school for the first time do not have a lot of prior knowledge when it comes to nature. Media, visual images, written language, are all important but so is the natural world. Little by little, we are all becoming disconnected from the natural world and are becoming estranged from our natural origins.
Until recent history, children grew up with intimate contact with nature. My students in New York City have few opportunities for outdoor free play and cannot explore nature. In a way, I consider this a type of "childhood imprisonment." As a mother, I always felt it was important for my children to be exposed to nature. I have always been known at school for being the teacher who has pets, plants, and for promoting "being green". For example, my young students are taught to recycle, respect living things, and to be conscious of fighting a culture of "polluting the earth." Nature helps children develop the power of observation and creativity and a sense of peace. Children will also begin to feel one with the world and this will foster a sense of wonder. Every early childhood teacher knows that wonder is necessary to become a life long learner. I am hoping to have New York Wild visit our classroom with a menagerie of exotic animals such as an alligator and a giant python.
I am so excited when I can bring "nature" into our little classroom on the first floor of our big, urban school.
I believe a love of nature will grow out of my students' regular contact with the natural world. Children are born with "nature" based instincts. I have yet to meet a child who was not interested in living things and nature. I have students in all the grades who love to stop by to see our "pets" and all the cool stuff in our "science center." It truly peeks their curiosity and interest.
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