The clean waters and beautiful landscapes we grew up with have changed. In less than a generation, invasive pests and diseases have completely altered the ecology of Lake Michigan and killed off most ash and beech trees from our region’s forests. The rapidly changing climate has already shifted our seasons and increased the occurrence of severe storms as well as heat waves. And that rate of change is increasing.
One thing is certain, our children will inherit a natural landscape in flux, where native plants and animals, wildlife habitats and whole ecosystems are threatened and need care. What could possibly help prepare them for what lies ahead? One answer might be, nature-based preschool and childhood education.
This video introduces two different nature-based education programs now operating in Northwest Lower Michigan. The Boardman River Nature Center operated by the Grand Traverse Conservation District has provided a nature-based preschool program for many years. Education Director, Taryn Carew explains that this program offers 3 and 4 year old children a beautiful and safe setting to explore and discover their own connections to the natural world.
The Grass River Natural Area also provides young children opportunities for nature-based exploration and discovery. Education Director, James Dake explains that these programs are intended to help children become comfortable outdoors and engaged with the natural world. By building heartfelt connections with the natural world, these education programs help to build motivations for greater learning in the sciences and natural resources.
Ultimately, these programs are helping young children develop a love for the outdoors and the wonders of the natural world, opening the door for broader intellectual connections as adults. First the hearts and then minds.