Activities, Experiences and Resources
for Use with Children
By culling the suggested materials for themes, topics, and activities and relying heavily on multi-sensory teaching strategies field-tested by Dimensions Foundation, these two Toolkits were created over the course of 2009-2010. These materials were then reviewed by selected professionals in each of the key areas, and produced in English, with activities translated in Arabic and Spanish.
One more aspect to this section was added: An Eco-Friendly Guide for Early Child Programs. This Guide attempts to make sense of the mountains of information on how to help a program “go green.” It offers simple, common sense steps for getting started on this effort, and also provides guidance for those designing or re-designing a new child care center facility.
These are recommended and reviewed resources for connecting the World’s children with nature.
Universal Principles: Nature Action Collaborative for Children
Call to Action: Re-Connecting the World’s Children to Nature
Aldo Leopold Foundation
The Leopold Education Project (LEP) is an innovative, interdisciplinary, critical thinking, conservation and environmental education curriculum based on the classic writings of the renowned conservationist, Aldo Leopold. The LEP Project teaches the public about humanity’s ties to the natural environment in the effort to conserve and protect the earth’s natural resources.
Alliance for a Healthier Generation
The Alliance for a Healthier Generation works to address one of the United States’ leading public health threats—childhood obesity. The goal of the Alliance is to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity by 2015, and to empower kids nationwide to make healthy lifestyle choices. Founded in 2005 by the American Heart Association and William J. Clinton Foundation, the Alliance works to positively affect the places that can make a difference in a child’s health: homes, schools, doctor’s offices, and communities. Search “outdoors” for especially relevant information.
American Society of Landscape Architects
This American Society of Landscape Architects website has information on creating green roofs. A green roof replaces traditional roofing with a lightweight, living system of soil, compost, and plants. It creates a thin, green skin atop a building that gives a little something back to the world.
Arbor Day Foundation
The mission of the Arbor Day Foundation is to inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. The Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with over one million members, supporters, and valued partners. The impact is accomplished through conservation and education programs.
Backyard Abundance is an educational nonprofit that helps people reconnect with nature by teaching ecological skills that enable the creation of beautiful, resilient communities and landscapes that model healthy ecosystems. Through research, education, demonstration, and collaboration, we empower people with the ability to cultivate regenerative landscapes that grow food, improve water and soil quality, and provide habitat. The website provides pictures of abundant landscapes, organic gardening publications, landscape design ideas using permaculture, and news about gardening and green living.
Childwatch International Research Network
The Childwatch International Research Network is a global, non-profit, nongovernmental network of institutions that collaborate in child research for the purpose of promoting child rights and improving children’s well-being around the world. It links local, regional and national research efforts to an international research based knowledge, practice and policy on children’s issues. It seeks a more effective and strategic approach to child research globally. The Network focuses on critical issues in the lives of children and youth, and their families. It seeks to encourage multi-disciplinary research, policy development and training that promote the well being, rights, civic and social participation and the full development of children.
Children and Nature Alliance
The Child and Nature Alliance is a virtual network of organizations and individuals who are working to connect children to nature through education, advocacy, programming, policy, research, and the built environment. Their vision is that all children and families in Canada are connected with nature and the outdoors in order to enhance their health and well-being. Their work aims to connect Canada’s children and families with nature and the outdoors in the settings where they live, play, learn and work.
Children and Nature Network
The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working nationally and internationally to reconnect children with nature. The network provides a critical link between researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being.
Children, Youth, and Environments Center for Research and Design
The Children, Youth and Environments Center for Research and Design (CYE) is part of the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Colorado Denver. Since its founding in 2004, CYE has moved to the forefront of efforts in the design professions and allied disciplines to promote the health, safety and welfare of children and youth. Working in collaboration with community partners, CYE supports meaningful participation by young people in the creation of thriving communities for all people. The Center undertakes interdisciplinary activities in research, teaching and community outreach that connect the worlds of research, policy and practice to improve young people’s environments. It focuses in particular on children and youth in environments of disadvantage and those with special needs.
ChildSpace Early Childhood Institute
Toni and Robin Christie founded Childspace Early Learning Centres and subsequently the Childspace Early Childhood Institute. They believe that early childhood is the most significant stage of every person’s development. They are driven to provide practical, relevant, natural and aesthetic resources and environments for all who play and work with very young children.
Cisco’s One Million Acts Of Green
This website has lots of simple ideas for environmentally friendly practices to improve air quality and reduce our impact through good daily habits.
Early Childhood Australia
Early Childhood Australia will advocate to ensure quality, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children from birth to eight years.
Dimensions Educational Research Foundation
Dimensions Educational Research Foundation provides research-based workshops, design consultations and hands-on resources to elementary schools, early childhood programs, nature centers, arboretums, botanical gardens, parks, zoos, wildlife refuges, national forest visitor centers and other organizations throughout the United States interested in helping children connect more deeply with the natural world. Dimensions collaborates with the Arbor Day Foundation on the national Nature Explore Program. It also runs the Dimensions Early Education Programs, which serve as primary research classrooms for on-going research efforts. Dimensions works with a cadre of workshop consultants, designers and researchers throughout the United States.
This organization brings people and nature in contact with each other in the Netherlands. They serve as intermediaries for kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools, vocational education, care institutions, recreation companies, nature conservation organizations and NME to support organizations in the setting up of outside environments. Professionals and volunteers receive training in order to carry out nature education and recreation programs. They have a centre of excellence that carry out research into the relationship between man and his natural environment and develop, test, and advise on effective nature education methods and products.
Free Play Network
The Free Play Network is a network of individuals and organizations, which aims to promote the need for better play opportunities for children.
Green Hearts Institute
Green Hearts’ mission is to restore and strengthen the bonds between children and nature. They use best practices in child development, environmental education, naturalistic landscaping, and conservation design to help ensure that active nature exploration remains a cherished part of childhood. By nurturing children’s love for the natural world, Green Hearts lays the cornerstone for life-long conservation values among the citizens and leaders of the future.
Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play
Head Start Body Start aims to increase physical activity, outdoor play, and healthy eating among Head Start and Early Head Start children, families, and staff. We help Head Start and Early Head Start Centers to create healthy learning environments and promote physical activity that leads to the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of young children and reduces obesity and its associated costs.
Hooked On Nature
Workshops, resources, and training for people working to connect children and nature more fully.
International Union for Conservation of Nature
IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. It supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world and brings governments, non-government organizations, United Nations agencies, companies and local communities together to develop and implement policy, laws and best practice. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network – a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries.
International Step by Step (ISSA)
ISSA’s mission is to support professional communities and develop a strong civil society that influences and assists decision makers to provide high quality care and educational services for all children from birth through primary school with a focus on the most disadvantaged and ensuring inclusion of families and community ensuring social inclusion and respect for diversity.
Just Do One
This is a website and on-line contest encouraging people to do one green act. “Personal action is incredibly powerful, and a lot more fun than worry. So I wondered, what if everyone just did one thing to make the world more livable? There are so many things we could do. What if we just do one?” – Greg Horn Sustainability advocate and contest organizer
Keep America Beautiful
This Keep America Beautiful web site contains tips, tools and resources to help individuals improve their community through recycling efforts.
Mindstretchers is a dynamic company, made up of an enthusiastic and dedicated group of people who feel that all children are entitled to learn in a multi sensory and naturally creative environment. The company started life as an educational consultancy. The underlying philosophy has been developed by Claire Warden, whose previous experiences have included teaching, advisory work and lecturing and who is now also in demand as a speaker internationally. They work to provide a range of exciting outdoor experiences for children and adults in our tipis and geodomes as well as providing training and facilitation on all aspects of early years practice. They design and produce a range of resources to motivate and inspire children and adults to learn. Their resources are based on fair trade and environmentally friendly ethics.
Nature Action Collaborative for Children (NACC)
The mission of the Nature Action Collaborative for Children is to re-connect children with the natural world by making developmentally appropriate nature education a sustaining and enriching part of the daily lives of the world’s children.
NAREA – North American Reggio Emilia Alliance
The North American Reggio Emilia Alliance (NAREA) is a network of educators, parents, and advocates seeking to elevate both the quality of life and the quality of schools and centers for young children. Their mission is to build a diverse community of advocates and educators to promote and defend the rights of children, families, and educators of all cultures through a collaboration of colleagues inspired by the philosophies and experiences of the 0-6 education project of Reggio Emilia, Italy.
National Wildlife Federation
The National Wildlife Federation works with more than 4 million members, partners and supporters in communities across the country to protect and restore wildlife habitat, confront global warming and connect with nature. It also has information on greening schools and back yards. The website also has a Be Out There section with activity ideas.
Natural Learning Initiative
The purpose of the Natural Learning Initiative is to promote the importance of the natural environment in the daily experience of all children, through environmental design, action research, education, and dissemination of information. They are housed at North Carolina University.
Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council has articles on this website that relate to air pollution and its impact specifically on children.
Nature Explore is a complete research-based program of fun, effective resources to help educators, families, and others working to connect children with nature. Nature Explore Classrooms are being constructed at schools; nature centers; national forests, parks, and wildlife refuges; zoos; arboretums; and child care centers. They are appropriate wherever a traditional playground might be built.
Nature Forever Society
This website aims to create awareness for conservation of our common birds and help people in conserving our common birds which are a vital part of the ecosystem. The site will also help people adopt nest boxes and feeders for various common birds and help them create bird-friendly habitats. Nature Forever Society works with NGOs, government institutions and various educational institutions for creating awareness on various issues connected to their environment and conservation. Their aim is to create wildlife-friendly habitats and involve the common man in the conservation movement to save India’s rich biodiversity.
Nature Rocks is a national United States program to inspire and empower families to play and explore in nature. Their mission is to make it easy for families to have fun in nature, and connect with others to do the same. They want all families in every city in America to see for themselves how much Nature Rocks. Kids will be happier, healthier and smarter, and besides, it is generally free and a rockin’ way to create and share fun quality family time. Nature Rocks was founded by the Children & Nature Network and EcoAmerica.
PlaNet Finance is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that aims to alleviate poverty worldwide through the development of microfinance. Their mission is to fight against poverty through the development of microfinance programs with high-added social value (in particular health, education, the environment) that enhance the provision of financial services.
Potters for Peace
Potters For Peace is a nonprofit member of the World Health Organization International Network to Promote Household Waste Treatment and Safe Storage. PFP assists in the production of low-tech, low-cost, water filtration systems.
Project Learning Tree
Project Learning Tree is an award-winning environmental education program designed for teachers and other educators, parents, and community leaders working with youth from preschool through grade 12.
Roots and Shoots
To foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs and to inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for people, animals and the environment.
Save the Children
Works to save and improve children’s lives in more than 50 countries. Each year more than 6 million children are reached. They are working to reduce the impact or even prevent disasters by addressing policies, strategies or activities carried out by villages, aid agencies or governments to reduce a community’s vulnerability to a disaster.
Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. Our loyal SSE members have distributed an estimated 1 million samples of rare garden seeds since our founding nearly 35 years ago. Those seeds now are widely used by seed companies, small farmers supplying local and regional markets, chefs and home gardeners and cooks, alike.
The Carbon Disclosure Project
The Carbon Disclosure Project launched in 2000 to accelerate solutions to climate change by putting relevant information at the heart of business, policy and investment decisions. Their mission is to harness the collective power of corporations, investors and political leaders to accelerate unified action on climate change.
The Green Belt Movement and their UNEP Billion Tree Campaign
Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people, communities, organizations, business and industry, civil society and governments are being encouraged to plant trees and enter their tree planting pledges on this web site. The objective is to plant at least one billion trees worldwide each year. The idea for the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign was inspired by Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2004 and founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement.
The GLOBE Program: Connecting the Next Generation of Scientists
The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program is a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program. GLOBE’s vision promotes and supports students, teachers and scientists to collaborate on inquiry-based investigations of the environment and the Earth system working in close partnership with NASA, NOAA and NSF Earth System Science Projects (ESSP’s) in study and research about the dynamics of Earth’s environment.
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. They address the most pressing conservation threats at the largest scale. This web site also has information on harnessing solar energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Trees for the Future
Trees for the Future helps communities around the world plant trees. Through seed distribution, agroforestry training, and our country programs, we have empowered rural groups to restore tree cover to their lands. Planting trees protects the environment and helps to preserve traditional livelihoods and cultures for generations.
United States Forest Service
This United States Forest Service Discover the Forest campaign aims to inspire children and their parents to re-connect with nature, experiencing it first-hand. This campaign brings to life the joy and excitement kids have when they discover the wonders of nature, helping create interest in their environment and a lifelong relationship with it.
Water for People
A global nonprofit supporting long-lasting access to water and sanitation. Their mission is to build a world where no one suffers or dies from a water or sanitation-related disease. They operate in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America.
Water Advocates is the first U.S.-based nonprofit organization dedicated solely to increasing American support for worldwide access to safe, affordable and sustainable supplies of drinking water and adequate sanitation. Their purpose is advocacy.
World Pulse uses the power of interactive media to build a network connecting the world of women – one voice at a time. Their multiple media platforms work together to create a unique “editorial cycle of empowerment” to bring women’s voices out of the shadows and on to the world stage.
Yale School of Forestry
The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies is internationally known for its excellence. Founded in 1901, the school offers master’s degrees and doctoral programs and serves as a locus for research into local, regional and global environmental issues.
These articles are recommended and reviewed.
Aesthetics and a Sense of Wonder by Ruth A. Wilson – Exchange Magazine May/June 2010
Benefits of Gardening for Children by Louise Chawla
Benefits of Nature for Children by Louise Chawla
Children and Families: The Magazine of the National Head Start Association Making Learning Natural – Summer 2009 PDF
Children and Nature: A Natural Attachment by Martha Farrell Erickson
Essential not Optional by Sue Elliot – Exchange magazine, March/April 2010
A Great Place to Grow: Designing Outdoor Spaces that Support Children’s Healthy Development by Nancy Rosenow. Page 24 of Children and Families: The Magazine of the National Head Start Association Making Learning Natural – Summer 2009 PDF
Greening Services: Practical Sustainability, by Rachael Kinsella
Kinder-gardeners: The Power of Nature to Nurture by Linda Hutchinson-Harmon – Exchange magazine, July/August 2009
National Geographic Magazine: A Special Issue – Water Our Thirsty World April 2010
Nurturing Environmental Awareness in Children by Kim Hyers – Exchange magazine, May/June 1999
Reflections on Children’s Experience of Nature: Children & Nature Network Report by Stephen Kellert
Student Gains From Place-Based Education by Louise Chawla
Sharing Nature with Children by Karen Stephens – Exchange magazine, November/December 1999
What Color is Your Roof? by Adam Negebauer
This article helps you learn more about changing the solar reflectance of your roof to wisely use solar energy.
Books and Videos
- An Outdoor Classroom by Steen B. Esbensen
- Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life by Stephen Kellert
- Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection by Stephen Kellert
- Children and Nature: Psychological, Sociocultural, and Evolutionary Investigations by Peter H. Kahn and Stephen R. Kellert
- Inspiring Spaces for Young Children by Jessica DeViney, Sandra Duncan, Sara Harris, Mary Ann Rody, and Lois Rosenberry
- Learning with Nature Idea Book by Valerie Cuppens, Nancy Rosenow, and James Wike
- Natural Playscapes: Creating Outdoor Play Environments for the Soul by Rusty Keeler
- Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators by David Sobel
- Experiencing Nature In Early Childcare DVD by Veldwerknederland
- How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants that Purify your Home or Office by B.C. Wolverton
- Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
- Learning With Nature DVD by Nature Explore
- Let’s Go Outside by Tracy Theemes
- Nature and Young Children: Encouraging Creative Play and Learning in Natural Environments by Ruth Wilson
- Nurture Through Nature by Claire Warden
- Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell
- 10 Minute Ecologist: 20 Answered Questions for Busy People Facing Environmental Issues by John Janovy
- The Earth is Our Home: Children Caring for the Environment by James L. Hoot
- The Great Outdoors: Restoring Children’s Right to Play Outside by Mary S. Rivkin
- Rivers and Tides and Wood by Andy Goldsworthy
- The Color of Nature by Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty (adult info?)
Nature Education in India
- Nature Education by Reeta Sonawat, Forward by Bonnie Neugebauer (2010, Multi-tech publishing co.)
Professional Journals, Magazines, and Newsletters
Continue to check these reputable sources for new information as it is published.
Audubon Magazine published by Audubon Society
Exchange Magazine – The Early Childhood Leaders’ Magazine since 1978
Tomorrow’s Planet – Sierra Club Children’s Newsletter
Wonder Newsletter of the Nature Action Collaborative for Children
Young Children Journal of National Association for the Education of Young Children
Bibliography for Toolkit for Educators
This web site has photos of toys made from trash. It also has lists of web sites in several languages that encourage creative repurposing of everyday household items.
Look at some of the works of British sculptor and environmentalist, Andy Goldsworthy, for inspiration from his Digital Catalogue.
Arbor Day Foundation
The Arbor Day Foundation website has information on the wind-related conservation benefits of planting trees for homeowners and farmers. Conifer trees can serve as a windbreak to protect homes from winds and conserve energy.
Audubon Society provides scientific information and guidance on bird conservation. It also has more information on how to create healthy outdoor environments that attract birds.
Avian Biology: Everything You Wanted to Know About Birds
Center for Ecoliteracy
Community Investment Collaborative for Kids, Creating Playgrounds for Early Childhood Facilities (PDF)
Early Sprouts: Cultivating Healthy Food Choices
Earth 911 on Composting
eHow on Rain Barrels
Go to this website for photos and instructions for creating a rain barrel.
Global Water Challenge
This Global Water Challenge Initiative website provides information about their work towards innovative solutions for water delivery and sanitation worldwide.
Going Green: Environmental Tips
Green Learning Canada
This Canadian website has scientific information on how wind energy is generated, captured, and its potential uses.
Guide to Container Gardening
Keep Nature Beautiful International Nature Conservation
Kids Health-Nemours Foundation
National Geographic – Soil
National Geographic’s web site section, Geopedia Soil: A Dirty Word, provides succinct information and further references on the value of healthy soil.
National Geographic – Birds
GeoPedia is a companion site to National Geographic Magazine and is a good source for information on birds. Click here to find more microscopic photos of nature.
Natural Resources Conservation Service
The United States Natural Resources Conservation Service helps you learn more about water conservation where you live and work through “Backyard Conservation” tips in both English and Spanish.
Oregon Environmental Council
Plant Cultures: Exploring Plants and People
Project Learning Tree
Project Learning Tree has an annotated bibliography of energy education web sites and many more resources available to assist educators and students in learning more about energy. It provides information from a variety of perspectives.
Pollinator Partnership is a source for pollinator action in North America specifically. It includes information on the role pollinators play in biodiversity.
Resourceful Schools Project
Seeds As Food
Smithsonian Natural History Museum
The Nature Conservancy
This web site has information on harnessing solar energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The World of Soil
The World of Soil has information on soil types and care.
United States Department of Agriculture
Eat Smart. Play Hard. Healthy Lifestyle
United States Energy Information Administration
This United States Department of Energy website for kids offers information on wind and other renewable energy sources.
University of Washington Center for Public Health
Why Child Care Matters for Obesity Prevention
U.S. Forest Service
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service is a source for information on planting and caring for wildflowers and all types of pollinator plants.
YouTube-The Pale Blue Dot
Watch and listen to Dr. Carl Sagan’s The Pale Blue Dot on this YouTube clip. The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 by Voyager 1 from a record distance, showing it against the vastness of space. By request of Carl Sagan, NASA commanded the Voyager 1 spacecraft, having completed its primary mission and now leaving the Solar System, to turn its camera around and to take a photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space. In 2001, this photograph was selected by Space.com as among the top ten space science photographs.