“Dress warmly and wear something you don’t mind getting wet,” my dad said, one morning. He was taking us hunting for the wild asparagus. I had read a bit about asparagus and I had eaten asparagus, but hunting for asparagus was a new experience.

The memory of hunting is one I won’t ever forget. We had friends who had a small boat, and they arranged for us to join them and boat through the salt marshes off the Massachusetts coast. We spent the day searching for small plots of wild asparagus and harvesting them. It was a sunny, but chilly day, and few of us made it back dry, but the memories are indelible. We spent the afternoon eating grilled, fresh asparagus and swapping tall tales of our exploits.

It is important to learn about nature, and one of the best ways to learn is to experience it firsthand. Nature is closer than you think, often just outside your back door. Take time to explore your surroundings; you may be surprised at what you find.

Why Nature Is Important 

“We need the tonic of wildness . . . At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature” —Henry David Thoreau in his classic book, Walden.

As parents, it is important for us to teach our kids to value, cherish, and protect the land that we have been given. Being responsible stewards of the earth is crucial, not just for our own lives, but also for the lives of our grandchildren and their grandchildren. Here are three reasons why nature is important:

  1. Nature pulls our eyes away from our electronics. It’s impossible to see and appreciate a beautiful sunset if our eyes are glued to our smartphone. Taking time to “stop and smell the roses” helps free us from the so-called “tyranny of the urgent.” Replying to the text can wait; it’s time to appreciate the nature around us.
  1. Nature surrounds us with beauty. Just as art can inspire us and help us cultivate our humanity, so too can the artwork of nature—the colorful leaves of a tree in the fall, the majestic reflection of the sun on the water, on the grandeur of the Grand Canyon.
  1. Nature’s solitude prompts reflection and thought. In our busy world, it is rare for us to make time to ponder, reflect, and think. Taking your kids on a hike or out for a canoe ride can provide time for contemplation. It’s also important to spend time alone in nature, but always let people know where you’re going and when you’ll be back in case you get lost.

Water, Water, Everywhere 

Do you ever wonder where the rain goes once it rolls off your roof? Water is one of the building blocks of life. We need drinking water to stay alive, and we need enough drinking water to prevent dehydration. We also need water for sanitation purposes in order to keep us and our environment clean. According to a publication from Penn State University entitled Water Conservation for Communities, “a mere one-half of one percent of all the water on earth is fresh water that is accessible to humans for water needs.”1

The average American uses 140-170 gallons of water per day. That adds up to over 110 million gallons in the United States alone!While many people in third world countries often have to walk for miles on end to get their water from wells, we as Americans can simply turn on the faucet. This can lead us to mistakenly believe that an endless supply of water is just waiting for us to use or even waste. Speaking of waste, a leaky faucet can waste 100 gallons a day3, and an average of 8 percent of all home water use is wasted through leaks.4

Ask these questions of your kids: Where does your water come from when you turn on the faucet? Where does it go when it goes down your drain, drops off your roof, or washes off your driveway?

Look for ways that you can make your home and yard a better conservation area for water. Teach your kids that it matters where things like water come from and where they go after you are done with them, and that every step along the way matters, too.

Three Tips for Teaching Kids to Love Nature 

There are many cultures, both past and present, whose appreciation for nature moves beyond just materialistic consumption. There is something about spending time in nature that invigorates our spirit. The “call of the wild” is built into the very fabric of our humanity. A love of nature is innate, but it is important that we as parents help cultivate that love in the hearts of our children. Here are three tips for teaching your kids to love and respect nature.

  1. Spend time in nature and observing nature. This can be as simple as excitedly pointing out the robin that heralds the return of spring or as in depth as going on a weekend camping trip. If children learn to see the beauty of sunsets and flowers and the stars in the sky, they’ll most likely want to conserve natural resources and they’ll be motivated to recycle instead of litter. And don’t underestimate the importance of children playing and having fun in natural environments like the woods.
  1. Have your children work alongside you in caring for nature. Whether it’s watering the houseplant or weeding in the backyard or chopping wood for the fireplace, find ways to have your kids engage with nature. Taking care of the family pet is also a valuable way to teach responsibility in interacting with nature.
  1. Talk about the importance of nature. Read books like Jack London’s The Call of the Wild with your kids and watch movies like The Secret Garden. The more frequently nature is referenced in conversation and daily life, the more likely the value of nature will be imprinted on the minds and hearts of your children.

Nature is all around us. Talk with your kids about the nature that surrounds them, whether it’s a tree in the front yard or the flowers in the park. Make time to delight in nature. Model good behavior, like recycling, for your children. If you value nature, your children will learn to value it as well.

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles” —Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Endnotes: 

  1. http:// pubs . cas.psu . edu/FreePubs/PDFs/AGRS113 . pdf
  2. http:// www . ishafoundation . org/us/blog/5-ways-earth-day/
  3. http:// www . sscwd . org/tips . html
  4. http:// www . phccweb.org/files/PDFs/WaterConservationFacts . pdf

Copyright 2016, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Annual Print Book 2016 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.