The Mom’s Beat: Children are natural environmentalists

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Twitter party hosted by PBS Kids offers new ideas for exploring outdoors

 “Kids these days!” It’s a complaint as old as time.

While there are times you will catch me saying the same thing (especially after seeing teenage girls walking around in yoga pants at school), I actually find a ton of hope in this generation of caring and conscientious children, particularly each year when we celebrate Earth Day on April 22.

Without a doubt, "kids these days" are being raised to be more aware of the lasting impact they make in their communities, as well as on a global scale. And the great news is that they are naturals at it.

They already know the importance of recycling nearly everything, reusing items and conserving water, topics that are introduced early in the educational experience. Even toddlers  normally a selfish bunch by default  are learning to think outside of their worlds. These experiences teach them that they matter and that their choices in the larger world carry weight. Good life lessons as well as good Earth lessons. 

  Submitted/Soles4Souls organization Submitted/Soles4Souls organization

Thankfully now it’s also now cool to be earthy as they get older too. Older students are learning all sorts of ways to help Mother Earth in school clubs and classrooms across the country. They are learning how to be creative thinkers and problem solvers through wind energy projects and computer programs that track energy conservation.

They are also becoming aware of what happens to their personal items after they are finished with them. Several area schools participate in Souls4Soles, a charitable organization that collects used shoes and finds new homes  and feet  for them in impoverished areas around the world. 

Schools do a great job of educating children on these topics, but sometimes the parents lack the time to come up with ideas to extend the learning at home, so the National Recreation and Park Association partnered with PBS Kids this month to offer resources to teachers and parents about Earth Day activities and to encourage families to “explore the outdoors.”

“Connecting children with nature is important to their mental, physical and emotional development. Children who spend time outdoors do better in science, get more physical exercise and grow up to be environmental stewards," reads the mission statement. "Research led by environmental psychologist Nancy Wells show that children with more exposure to nature have reduced stress levels and longer attention spans.”

The partnership also led a Twitter discussion last week on ways to extend the Earth Day learning for children at home (Catch up on it at #PBSExplore).

The panelists asked participants what their children have learned from the outdoors, what ways art can blend with nature, and other open-ended inquiries.

I contributed some ideas from activities I have seen while covering schools and community events for the newspaper, and also learned from the other participants, who ranged from parent bloggers to experts from Plum Landing, a PBS Kids website and media project that uses "webisodes, games and activities to help 6- to 9-year-olds see their planet in a whole new perspective.”

Here are some ideas for you to share with your families:

Courtesy of Courtesy of

1. 50th Anniversary of "The Giving Tree:" This year marks 50 years that this iconic book has been shared by parents and their children. Gather your kids under your favorite tree and read this beautiful story by Shel Silverstein. Discuss all of the ways trees contribute to our lives and ways we can help take care of them in return.

2. Don’t be afraid of the weather (via Plum Landing): Grab an umbrella and bundle up and get outside with the kids. On rainy days, look on sidewalks for earthworms or slugs. Roll rocks and logs to see what is living underneath. On snow days, watch for animal tracks. See where they came from and where they are headed.

Courtesy of PBS/Sunprints Courtesy of PBS/Sunprints

3. Make sun prints (via PBS): Order sun art paper and collect interesting items from outdoors to make natural prints that are frame-worthy. Get directions HERE.

4. Stay outside after the sun goes down: Download a Star Map app on your smart phone. Grab a blanket and lay under the stars on a clear night to view the constellations. It’s an amazing activity for both children and adults.

For printable activities, go to


PBS Kids PBS Kids

Laura Stetser is a full-time reporter and mother of two school-age children. Connect with her via email at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @TheMomsBeat.


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