About the Author
Ceren Caner has a Master's degree in Environmental Education and Communication from Royal Roads University. He is a teacher at the Outdoor Learning Program at South Canoe Elementary, Director with the Shuswap Outdoor Learning Foundation, and a father of two curious girls with muddy feet.
Why the Earth Needs Children to Jump in Puddles
by Ceren Caner
Rachel Carson has been recognized as a woman way ahead of her time. She is best known for her book Silent Spring, who many credit as having launched the environmental movement in 1962. In her writing, she warned governments of the impacts of pesticide use and human impacts on marine ecosystems. 68 years later, people around the world are grappling with environmental change in a way we could have never foreseen.
I remember learning from an ethics class I took 20 years ago, that people struggle to act ethically when they either can’t see the issue or feel removed from the issue. This is at the heart of our environmental conundrum. It is hard to see climate change. We may not immediately feel its wrath even though our day-to-day actions have a direct effect on it. This aspect of human reasoning impacts our day-to-day actions with respect to environmental care. As voting citizens, this approach to ethical reasoning ultimately impacts who we vote for and consequently what environmental policies and laws our governments adopt.
You do not need a doctorate in psychology (or marketing for that matter) to know that the human mind comes to understand and directs its attention to what it knows and loves. Therefore, it would make sense, as the scientific research suggests, that if a child comes to learn about and love the natural world, that child will be more likely to see both positive and negative changes to that world. Further, that child will be more inclined to protect that world that they know and love as they age. This idea helped initiate the child and nature movement that has been growing rapidly throughout the world over the past 20 years.
Today there are thousands of scientific studies that prove the various social, emotional, academic and health benefits of spending time in nature. Most people have not read or heard about these studies, yet I argue that most of us know in our hearts that having a close connection with the natural world is healthy for our mind, body and spirit. After all, when we go to the beach, we always face the lake and mountain view!
I had the privilege of working with a team on the development of the Outdoor Learning Program at South Canoe Elementary School established in 2018 in the North-Okanagan Shuswap School District. At first, when the idea was proposed, there was some skepticism that there would not be enough interest. To find out, a survey went out to families throughout the district asking if they would enroll their student in an outdoor learning school if given the choice. Within 2 days we found out that over half of the 779 respondents responded, ‘Yes’. To me, this upholds the idea that people innately believe that nature connection is important to us.
Much less known, when compared to Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, is her writing about the connection of children to the natural world. In 1956, Rachel Carson wrote an essay titled ‘A Sense of Wonder’. In it, she writes, “it is not half so important to know as to feel”. Through her experiences as a parent she describes how taking kids outside to explore and wonder cultivates an emotional connection to the natural world.
Whether you are an avid naturalist or don’t know the difference between a pine and cedar tree, as adults we can take it upon ourselves to facilitate the connection of children to the natural world. Doing this should allow children to see and feel her beauty, to listen to her stories and to embrace her wisdom. Ultimately, this connection may just be enough for us all to realize how much we love and want to protect our planet and all its inhabitants.