Well it took a report to be commissioned by Planet Arkto tell the community what every science teacher I know has been saying for the last ten years - kids don't know their environment (refer to Herald Sun, June 27, 2012). My colleagues and I have made this very comment every time we have tried to teach any type of Biology or Environmental Science Unit. In my honest opinion it comes down to two main reasons - parents are time poor and parents are scared of the potential dangers the environment has to offer. We don't want to let our children get hurt but we don't have the time to go down to the creek and wade in the mud.
When I first started teaching 15 plus years ago I would come to work and find 'presents' on my desk such as dead creatures in jars and boxes that the students had found on the weekend and they would want the 'item' identified. Students would point out insects, etc. in the grounds and want explanations. Now when I am on playground duty they are all so immersed in their laptops that they are unaware that the weather has changed or a bird has flown in to collect the sandwich crust they dropped on the ground. I couldn't agree more that children, even big adolescent grumbly children, need more green time and less screen time. I actually long for the days that I received such interesting presents.
It doesn't have to cost money. There are three simple activities you can do that cost very little except your valuable time and can bring the greatest educational benefit.
1. Set up a shelf/cabinet of curiosities at home
Many Primary teachers would call this the science table or nature table, where your children can collect and admire objects of nature that they have found and find interesting. Many 19th Century country homes had such things and the whole family collected items of interest and displayed them in the cabinet. I still have a piece of petrified wood I found in the backyard when I was 10 years old. Just be careful about what you collect, you don't want anything poisonous or illegal. Collections are great for promoting scientific process and thinking skills.
2. Go walking
The local bike path can have heaps of beneficial green moments. Many paths meander through wetlands and around creeks. Stop, sit, listen and look. Point out the guppies in the shallows and the small plants on the embankment. Take a small net and catch some insects or fish - you don't have to take them home, just be gentle and put them back afterwards.
It can be as simple as getting some big easy to handle seeds like bean, pea, and corn seeds or flower seeds such as nasturtiums and put them in a pot, icecream container or boot with a bit of soil from the yard and water. Try different seed depths, measure the growth daily, count the leaves, compare the growth of corn with a bean and keep a log of results. Once again a great activity for promoting a green imagination, science process and thinking skills.
If you are not confident in your own knowledge take advantage of the following services in and around Brisbane. They offer free guided walks, holiday and weekend activities and have great collections of photos and 'curiosities' worth having a look at.