Tuesday, March 14, 2006

How to Turn Your Kid into a Treehugger

Want your kids to become as passionate about the environment as you are? According to a new study out of Cornell, it's as simple as getting them outdoors. From Mongabay.com:
Nancy Wells, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell, and Kristi Lekies, a research associate in human development at Cornell, analyzed data from a 1998 U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service survey that examined childhood nature experiences and adult environmentalism. The researchers sampled more than 2,000 adult Americans, ages 18 to 90, about their early childhood nature experiences and their current adult attitudes and behaviors relating to the environment.

They found that "wild" nature activities in childhood are correlated to adult interest in the environment.

"Although domesticated nature activities—caring for plants and gardens—also have a positive relationship to adult environment attitudes, their effects aren't as strong as participating in such wild nature activities as camping, playing in the woods, hiking, walking, fishing and hunting," said Wells. "When children become truly engaged with the natural world at a young age, the experience is likely to stay with them in a powerful way—shaping their subsequent environmental path."

"Our study indicates that participating in wild nature activities before age 11 is a particularly potent pathway toward shaping both environmental attitudes and behaviors in adulthood," she added.
I've always traced my own environmental consciousness to the innumberable camping trips and park visits my parents took my sister and me on when we were kids... Now I've got evidence. At one level, this seems obvious, but it also speaks more generally to the power of teaching our kids by letting them experience the world, something I fear too many families just don't do enough anymore...

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