This blog article is Part 1 of a 3-part series on being a “Steward of the Earth”.

April 22 is Earth Day … a day when we clean up our parks, plant trees and flowers, and recycle cans and plastic bottles …. when we talk about how important it is to take care of our Earth. These are all great ideas but….. far too often they are one-time activities and soon forgotten. Let’s focus instead on how to teach our children to be “Stewards of the Earth”, in hopes that this will become a life-long habit!!

What exactly is a “Steward of the Earth”? What does it teach our children?
A “Steward of the Earth” is someone who manages the Earth’s resources and puts it back to its original beauty so future generations can also enjoy it. Through exploring, understanding, and preserving nature, children learn skills, knowledge and attitudes that will help them grow to be contributing members of their community – caring about each other, their community, and the world.

‘The Seasons of a Tree’ can be used to demonstrate:
• how the different developmental domains can use the same underlying activity but focus on specific identified skills, knowledge or attitudes
• how a nature-based activity nurtures the idea of becoming a “Steward of the Earth”

Basic Activity: Seasons of a Tree
This activity is basically free, easy to do, easily accessible, and limitless in how many
other activities can be developed around the basic activity, depending upon your supplies
• Find a tree that is accessible all year for you and the children
• Children must be able to use all of their senses to examine and explore the tree
• Observe the same tree once a week, through all of the seasons.

Developmental Domain 1: Social & Emotional
The following explanation is an excerpt from Cradle to Crayons, Volume 2 No. 1

“The domain of Social and Emotional Development emphasizes understanding and recognizing emotions; the development of self-confidence and increasing independence; and beginning to understand other’s rights and privileges. Of particular importance in this domain are the skills children demonstrate in making friends, solving conflict and functioning effectively in groups.

Children use play to explore, practice and understand the many social roles and relationships they observe and experience. The skills they develop through play include: reading social cues of others, self-regulation, and entering play groups. Through the caring, nurturing and supportive relationships with significant adults, the child is forming the foundation needed for social success.”

How does this developmental domain nurture becoming a “Steward of the Earth”?
Being a good steward requires that the individual or child, have/use positive character traits such as respect, caring, responsibility, and good citizenship toward the land, air, water, plants, animals and people. (Good Character, Good Stewards: Caring for the World Around Us, National Park Service).

These positive character traits can only be developed if children are on track with their own social and emotional development. Children need to be able to identify and describe their feelings and the feelings of others. They also need to begin to understand their role as a member of a group, and how their actions impact others. These character traits continue to be important as children grow and develop through adolescence and into adulthood.

Initial Activity of SEASONS OF A TREE – promoting how to become a “Steward of the Earth
Activity:
1. Go on a nature walk to find a tree that can become your child’s special tree.
2. Have your child really examine the tree – feel it, smell it, describe it, draw it, do a nature rubbing of the bark, if summer – have a picnic under it, look at the leaves, etc.
3. Encourage your child to name their tree.

Supporting development:
• This activity helps children to develop a relationship with their tree that is both an emotional attachment and cognitive understanding of how trees grow and change through the seasons.
• This learning can be extended by reading about how trees provide essentials for us – oxygen, shelter, homes for animals, products used by people such as paper and wood.
• Discover with your child how trees are used to make paper, set up a paper recycling bin.
• Use some of the paper in the recycling bin to make your own paper.

For more ideas on how to help children become ‘Stewards of the Earth‘, check out the Stewards of the Earth and Earth Wise Units of Study at http://earlylearningsuccess.net/shop/