FAMILIES NURTURING NATURE:
DISCOVERING THE OUTDOORS TOGETHER
Curiosity, compassion, and concern: Kids are at their best when they demonstrate these traits while using their minds, bodies, and spirits to learn, discover, and achieve. The outdoors provides a perfect laboratory for discovering the inquisitive and thoughtful facets of a child's personality.
Each species in an ecosystem, whether human, animal, or plant, relates to all the others. In other words, we need each other to survive. When you and your children explore the environment's ecosystems and biodiversity, discover the balance between consuming and conserving natural resources, and build respect for animals and plants, you're supporting and joining the natural community. The following organizations offer information and inspiration to parents and kids who want to live in a clean, beautiful, and diverse world.
The goal of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF; 800-822-9919; www.nwf.org) is to safeguard and restore our land, waters, and wildlife. Teachers, homeschoolers, and parents who want to enhance their children's school vacations will be interested in the animal-friendly resource material. Ask for copies of Beyond Your Backyard: Conserving Wildlife Habitats in Your Community and Animal Tracks. The NWF also publishes periodicals for children: Ranger Rick (12 issues for $17.00; ages 7 to 12), Your Big Backyard (12 issues for $15.00; ages 3 to 6), and the new Wild Animal Baby (ten issues for $19.95; ages 1 to 3). All include fine photos, kicky graphics, insightful information, and nature-inspired activities. The smallest naturalists will be enchanted with Wild Animal Baby, a colorful board-book magazine geared toward the interests and abilities of toddlers.
Conserving, protecting, and enhancing the environment, working with endangered species, and monitoring migratory birds are just a few of the worthy projects sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (800-344-WILD; www.fws.gov ). You might be interested in receiving a bird conservation brochure or an endangered species brochure, or perhaps becoming involved in a volunteer project.
The mission of the Izaak Walton League of America (707 Conservation Lane, Gaithersburg, MD 20878-2983; 800-BUG-IWLA; www.iwla.org) is to conserve soil, air, woods, waters, and wildlife. Inquire about the Save Our Streams Program catalog, which lists books, videos, and equipment. For $6.00, the league will send you its Hands-On Save Our Streams Science Project Guide for Students by Karen Firehock; for $1.00 you can receive a laminated "Stream Insect and Crustaceans Identification Card." League membership is $7.00 (for kids under 18), $17.00 (for ages 18 to 21), and $27.00 (for adults), and includes the quarterly magazine Outdoor America.
If you're a bird feeder or a bird-watcher, you'll enjoy all the information the National Audubon Society (700 Broadway, Fifth Floor, New York, NY 10003; 800-274-4201; www.audubon.org ) has to offer. In addition to defending birds, this group is also dedicated to conserving soil, water, plants, and other wildlife by saving and restoring natural ecosystems and habitats. Of special interest is Audubon Adventures, an environmental educational kit designed for grade school kids. It contains an environmental newspaper, a resource manual filled with activities and research materials, and other fun stuff; the cost is $19.00 plus shipping and handling for one kit or $35.00 for a classroom kit, which serves 32 students. This year's topics include "So Different, So Alike: The Diverse World of Mammals," "They Call Us Cold Blooded," "Who Needs a Backbone?," and "The Feather Factor." Call 800-813-5037 to order the kit.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (424 E. 92nd Street, New York, NY 10128; 212-876-7700; www.aspca.org
Protecting endangered species and spaces is the goal of the World Wildlife Fund (800-CALL-WWF; www.worldwildlife.org). Especially interesting to parents and kids are the "Windows on the Wild" environmental education program and the "Pennies for the Planet" campaign, which raises funds for environmental programs; there's also an on-line newsletter. Kids who like receiving old-fashioned mail can request a free World Wildlife Fund Action Kit.
The National Arbor Day Foundation (100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410; 888-448-7337; www.arborday.org), dedicated to tree planting and protection, can help you participate in environmental projects in your own backyard or park. If you become a member ($10.00), your family will receive ten tiny flowering trees to plant and a copy of The Tree Book. The Educational Materials Sampler, containing a kids' newsletter, "Carly Chronicle," and other informative and brochures, is available free to members.
Growing Ideas: A Journal of Garden-Based Learning and Gardening with Kids are publications of the National Gardening Association (180 Flynn Avenue, Burlington, VT 05401; 800-LetsGrow; . Gardening Ideas contains classroom-tested gardening lessons and resource ideas for parents and teachers. Gardening with Kids, subtitled Tools to Help Minds Grow, features all sorts of garden-based educational materials from seed collections to butterfly gardens and worm habitats.
If you cherish the beauty of the earth, if you care about preserving endangered species and spaces, you'll want to support these environmental groups working toward a world where the beauty and diversity of nature is celebrated, humans and animals coexist in harmony, and children inherit a planet that blooms and flourishes in their care.
For additional information about families and nature, see the following articles in past issues of Mothering: "Natural Landscaping: Lessons in Ecology," no. 76; "Save the Earth?" no. 68; and "The Ecology of Raising Children," no. 56.
Written by: Audrey Suckow
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