Citizen Science Can Renew A Child's Love of Nature
We all know that humans are making a negative impact on the environment. In fact, worldwide, we lose plant and insect species at an alarming rate-something on the order of 10,000 species annually. The U.S. ranks high among nations in the loss of biodiversity; the per capita 'ecological footprint' (a measure of how much land is needed for a population's lifestyle) is almost five times the world's average-far beyond sustainable. Richard Louv, author of No Child Left in the Woods, attributes our disregard for the Earth to a decreasing number of children who play outside, build forts, or explore nature.
In 2006, the Kaiser Family Foundation concluded that "the multitasking generation" spends their time juggling TV/DVD, videogames, music, and computers. When considered separately, these activities add up to more than a 24-hour day. Childhood experiences with nature frame how we think about the natural world and how we treat people, the Earth's other species, and physical environments.
My eldest son knows that I enjoy the outdoors, yet he also knows that I am a busy adult. Working hard also equates to personal sacrifices, which means my son is exposed to a lot more television, movies, and video games than I'd prefer. How can we, as parents, help improve the environment and instill in our children a love for nature and conservation?
Teaching Children to Value Nature
My university life is centered on ways to collaborate with science teachers in order to promote responsibility for cultural diversity, biodiversity, habitats, and nature's harmony. I have recently learned how to incorporate these values into my relationship with my son by collecting data while hiking, playing outside, or bird watching. About a year ago we began doing citizen science by selecting different methods of investigating, collecting, and analyzing data on regional birds, insects, plants, and rocks.
What is Citizen Science?
Citizen scientists are predominately involved in monitoring environmental indicators and the biodiversity of species related to regional climate change, which range in scope from the micrometer to the cosmos. There are now over 200 citizen science projects available worldwide, allowing for ordinary adults and their children to collect data that supports scientific studies and local policymaking. In fact, the longest running citizen science project is more than 100 years old.
What Are Some Citizen Science Projects I Can Do With My Child?
Monarch larva and butterfly migration monitoring
Worm and weed watches
Lake ice and weather monitoring
Municipal air and water quality
Bird feeder watches
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