The importance of repetition in environmental education
Amanda Tomasello is back this week sharing her experience with environmental education and how repeated visits to local parks can help captivate more urban youth. Amanda is interning in Rhode Island with us as part of the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership.
From an outsider’s perspective I can understand why a person would think educational programs such as the ones offered by the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership are a feeble attempt at getting urban youth interested in nature. Even I get discouraged when taking a class on a nature walk on a hot and humid day. It’s not enjoyable for anyone to be in the woods when you’re drenched in sweat restlessly swatting away mosquitoes. And it seems especially hopeless if that’s a child’s first impression of close interaction with nature. Why would they ever want to go back? Some of the students are so panicked with fear, assuming anything with a leaf is bound to leave them with a blistering poison ivy rash.
The great thing about what we do however, is that the school programs have repeat field trips to their local parks so they can observe their natural environment changing with the seasons. If their experience is sub par one visit, they have many more chances to rediscover their park. Despite this, most nature walks go over extremely well. I love seeing the kids reactions when they learn that a sassafras leaf smells like fruit loops or a skunk cabbage leaf smells like pungent onions.
I love opening that horizon for them. I especially love working with youth who live in the city, because it’s so new to them and I experience their excitement firsthand every time. Perhaps one of the most important things is just getting kids comfortable with the outdoors so that they can enjoy it in the future off the pages of a schoolbook. It is practically common knowledge in the field that every person working in the environmental sector can fondly recall an early individual experience with nature. It is our hope that our programs can foster or lead to that type of experience. It would be a benefit to society as a whole to have not only a higher representation of women and people of color in the environmental field, but also to simply raise kids with a heightened sense of respect for the outdoors. It makes me so hopeful to hear kids say, “This was so fun!” at the end of a day in the park.
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