by Hanae Bettencourt, Associate Education Manager
Climate change. Habitat loss and degradation. Endangered species. Global pandemic.
It’s quite easy these days to find an environmental catastrophe to be worried about. It is also easy to look to today’s youth and see resilience and hope for the future. It is in this juxtaposition where Environmental Education lives.
There is a fine line that any environmental educator must walk when teaching youth about the environment. Topics like climate change, habitat loss, and endangered species can be heavy for young souls when approached from a doomsday perspective. So how does one approach the subject without scaring young learners?
The core goal of all environmental education programs is to foster an appreciation for nature and to develop future stewards of our environment. This goal is achieved in various age-appropriate ways in all of Seattle Audubon’s youth education programs. Fledglings & Friends teaches 2-5 year-olds that all of nature’s creatures are our friends, through stories, crafts, and outdoor exploration. Finding Urban Nature (FUN) has spent the last 30+ years teaching 3rd and 4th graders that nature and its interconnections can be explored right outside our front doors. Young Birders encourages teens to connect with their peers to share their love of birds and nature, as well as explore careers in the environmental field.
It would be a disservice to our youth to shield them from the troubles our world faces today. No matter how young, they are important members of the environmental community and they should be empowered with the knowledge of these issues as well as the solutions to combat them. For example, our Fledglings will learn how bugs are an important source of food for local birds. Young Birders will work with local environmental groups to learn about how simple habitat restoration projects can increase the livability of birds in our urban landscape. Done in an age-appropriate manner, conservation issues can be taught with action and hope as the driving message. This is at the core of all Seattle Audubon Youth programs.
Over the next several months, we will be putting efforts into improving all of our youth education programs by embedding these age-appropriate conservation messages into Fledglings and Friends, Young Birders, Nature Camp, and more. With the retirement of FUN, the door is wide open for our team to develop a brand-new school-age program that focuses on conservation and will reach a wide range of students in both public, private, and home school settings.
The world can be a scary place. But it’s a lot less scary when you have hope and the power of knowledge on your side.