This is Part 3 of the Seasons of a Tree – Helping Children become “Stewards of the Earth”, highlighting the final two developmental domains. Please refer to Part 1 and Part 2 to see how all the domains can support children in becoming caretakers and advocates of our Earth. This is great to do for Earth Day, but even better to do all year long!

Developmental Domain 5: Cognitive – Math, Science, Social Systems
Early childhood is a time of wonder and learning. It is a time when children acquire knowledge and understanding of the world around them through organizing and using information. The specific categories in the cognitive domain are mathematical and logical thinking, scientific thinking and problem-solving, and social systems understanding.

Early childhood is also a time of intense brain development. A child’s brain is a very complex organ. At birth, a child has almost a full set of brain cells – about 100 billion. The cells are there, but the connections or synapses, between the cells are not. These connections are formed through positive stimulation – play, affection, discovery, and language interaction. Our thought processes, our personality, and our physical abilities are regulated by these connections, which continue to develop throughout adolescence and young adulthood.

How does this developmental domain nurture becoming a “Steward of the Earth”?
Children are curious, inquisitive, and want to know ‘why’! Knowledge about the world, and developing skills to use that knowledge, are important in being able to find creative solutions to solve problems.
Along with acquiring knowledge and skills, children need to have guidance in identifying what is of value to them. Knowledge, skills and a value system are keys to becoming a “Steward of the Earth”.

Activities for SEASONS OF A TREE that promotes how to become a “Steward of the Earth”
Mathematical and logical thinking
1. Collect leaves to: count; create patterns; sort by color and size etc.
2. Measuring: the circumference of the trunk; your child’s height on the trunk; size of the leaves.

Scientific thinking and problem solving
1. Make a list of items that are made out of paper, decide which items from that list can be recycled and then start collecting them for recycling.
2. Use the items from the recycled paper bin to create other art projects such as paper, collages, sculptures etc.
3. Use a magnifying glass to get a closer look at your tree – the bark, the leaves, the bugs crawling on and around the tree.

Social system understanding
1. Observe your tree to see what animals and birds use your tree for their home; talk about the materials used to build your own house.
2. Find out how paper is made, and how many trees it takes. Plant a tree someplace and watch it grow.

Supporting development:
• Cognitive skills help children develop higher-level thinking and problem-solving skills.

Developmental Domain 6: Physical & Motor
The physical and motor aspect of your child’s development includes three different components:
1. Gross motor or large muscle control, coordination and development;
2. Fine motor or small muscle control, coordination and development;
3. Physical health and general well-being

All three of these areas affect your child’s ability to interact with and understand the world around them. Children need to be physically and mentally healthy in order to be ‘ready to learn’.

How does this developmental domain nurture becoming a “Steward of the Earth”?
Children learn best when they are able to touch, feel, smell, and manipulate objects through their play. As they grow and learn, each new experience becomes connected or inter-woven with already learned concepts or past experiences. Positive experiences create productive ideas, positive values and successful outcomes. A very positive outcome is becoming a “Steward of the Earth”

Activities for SEASONS OF A TREE that promotes how to become a “Steward of the Earth”
1. Lay on the ground and look up through the tree branches. What do you see, how do you feel?
2. ‘Become’ a tree – encourage your child to try the ‘tree’ yoga pose
3. Use your body to move like a tree in a spring rainstorm, in a summer breeze, in a fall wind storm, in a winter snowstorm
4. Investigate what types of food comes from trees – does your tree provide any food for animals, for people?

Supporting development:
• Children need many opportunities to use their muscles (both large and small), in a variety of ways.
• Nutrition, exercise and rest are three components that contribute to physical wellness.

Stewards of the Earth – our children, our future
We are very fortunate to have valuable resources right at our fingertips – our children, nature in our world, and the ability to impact the future. As caregivers, we have an incredible responsibility to make sure that we protect these gifts.

A sense of wonder, a love of nature, and an inquisitive mind are qualities our children can share with us. Building upon those traits, we can instill in our children a sense of purpose, good citizenship skills, and caring behavior which will protect our resources. We can nurture our “Stewards of the Earth” for now and the future.

Check out the Stewards of the Earth Unit of Study, available at http://earlylearningsuccess.net/product/stewards-of-the-earth/