As a nonprofit, nonpartisan consortium, I’m always keenly aware when I’m being ‘played’ by both the ‘right and left’ of a political hot potato, and I strive to balance spin accordingly. But sometimes, legislation is just smack dab common sense for all, pairing centrist thinking with beneficial outcomes…
Shaping Youth is breaking form in supporting two key coalitions impacting children…One is the FCC coalition addressing embedded product placement and integration and the other is the No Child Left INSIDE Coalition (NCLI) supporting environmental education. Both involve policies taking shape right this minute at the national legislative level and both involve children’s critical thinking skills in eco-literacy and media literacy. (hat tip to EarthSeeds Project for the NCLI links)
Paraphrasing “We can’t protect what we don’t know” (which I’ve written about many a time and used in Earthseeds Project endeavors) it’s readily apparent that knowledge serves. It takes hands-on experience (in nature AND in media!) to get ‘up close and personal’ with the beasties we don’t know…Example?
Many a parent has banned MySpace/social media sites without even understanding them or dissed virtual worlds without ever going in one rather than taking the time to develop the skill sets to cherry pick the value. Likewise, some kids show disdain for math and science or groan at the difficulty of chemistry, stuck in stereotypes of fear and math mythology without opening their minds to applied science measured from an eco-perspective, using the white board of the great outdoors!
Leverage what kids enjoy and they learn more. Make it relevant for their world, and they see more.
Likewise, online and offline learning easily co-exists in balanced harmony, serving as springboards for one another to ‘learn by doing’ and ‘do by learning.’ It doesn’t have to be an ‘either/or’ proposition with one vilifying the other.
So what does The NCLI Act do? It expands grants to ensure teachers have knowledge and skills to teach environmental education, and rewards states that incorporate eco-literacy into their existing curricula in fresh new ways with funding resources.
The “Get ‘Em Outside” video on YouTube cited a study claiming children could identify 1000 corporate logos but fewer than ten plants or animals native to their backyard.
It also mentioned children as young as five showed a decrease in ADD symptoms when engaged in nature. (mind you, the media literacy queen in me wanted the exact study links, so if anyone has ‘em, please forward for attribution!)
…And since children are naturally drawn to the future of the planet, with youth leading the way as eco-saviors, mindful middle schoolers and green teens galore, it makes perfect sense to plant eco-literacy through education, and nourish it outdoors.
Yah, I know, it shouldn’t take an act of Congress to get kids to ‘go outside and play.’
But with recess/PE cutbacks and childhood obesity, plus media proliferation and narrowed curriculum mandates, I’d say it can’t hurt to segue BOTH eco and media literacy into school environs…at earlier ages and stages.
That’s why Shaping Youth is joining more than 400 groups across the country, representing 20 million people, to give schools the resources they need…inside and outside the classroom. Wanna join in?
The way I see it, the snail-patters and spider-stompers that co-exist on K-5 cement playgrounds represent a surreal microcosm of life.
If we extend those polarities onto neutral ground in the outdoors, to expose the natural synergies and create the opportunity to ask ‘why’ then there are shifts in understanding that begin to tumble forth, gushing like a waterfall.
“What do they really DO?”
And not to miss out on the irony of mass media leaking in, as Disney’s Lion King “Circle of Life” song bounces through my brain, I recall a nature hike media moment with a precocious 4th grade boy who saw two banana slugs mating and made a condom joke about “hoping they were wearing protection.”
Um, yeah. So yes, reality check…there’s a Kids Getting Older, Younger (KGOY) element in play, but we should even use THESE field study findings as ‘teaching moments’ to adapt rhetoric into reality and keep it real and relevant.
One of my favorite kid quotes is from British anthropologist and science writer Roger Lewin who said,
“Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.”
With narrowing curriculum, nature deficit disorder, and the importance of environmental education (EE) on the rise, I’d only caution that core content areas will work best to empower kids when passion and pragmatics are paired.
I say choose a couple of complimentary colors that blend and blur into new discoveries.
If you toss out an entire palette of ‘eco-learning’ at once, all the problems that need solving mush together in a disheartening, muddy mess.
Keep it small. Make it doable. Build on successes. Follow kids’ passions.
Result? No Child Left INSIDE.
Related news from No Child Left INSIDE (NCLI Coalition.org:)
06.26.2008 – US Bill Proposes Funding for Outdoor Education
05.19.2008 – Schools Can’t Spare Time or Dimes for Field Trips
03.17.2008 – Inside the Capitol, The Great Outdoors
03.07.2008 – NACO Resolution
02.05.2008 – MSNBC Video: Housebound
01.28.2008 – NCLI Would Be Good News for Env. Education
01.02.2008 – Schools Fail for Not Teaching Environmental Lessons
01.01.2008 – Classrooms Are Going Green – Scholastic News
Executive Director of the North American Association for Environmental Education, Brian Day, was interviewed by Grist, an online environmental news and commentary publication. Click here to view his comments on the most recent No Child Left Inside developments.
Shaping Youth’s Article Summary of Related Posts (See EcoKids Category)