Earth Day is around the corner. What better occasion to teach your children about ecosystems?
Why teach your children about ecosystems?
Teaching your children about ecosystems will give them valuable lessons on nature and how everything works together, how we are all interconnected—the birds, animals, insects, fish, dirt, and trees, our pets, our food, and us and that we live in incredibly rich ecosystems and a diverse environment.
Children must learn to respect and care for the world and its wildlife from a young age, and why it is important to preserve it and make them advocates for protecting nature. They must appreciate the world we live in and understand that the earth’s resources are limited and be aware of it.
A research study titled Effect of environmental education on the knowledge of aquatic ecosystems and reconnection with nature in early childhood states that:
… direct contact with nature have a positive role in the way it is understood by children, as well as promoting responsible and sustainable behaviors, being effective from the early primary-school years.
Ecosystems are an important topic for children to learn about because we, as people, are, after all, part of the Earth’s ecosystems. Ecology teaches children about the interdependence between human life and natural life and how it all comes together to form a balanced, functioning environment, showing that we are all connected.
Along with teachers, parents can also teach their children about ecosystems so that they can develop a sense of responsibility and respect toward nature.
Here are 5 ways to teach your children about ecosystems
1) Start with the basic concepts
Before you dive into complex concepts and scenarios, start with the basics. Firstly, explain what an ecosystem is. To make this easier here is an explanation of an ecosystem
“An ecosystem consists out of all the organisms on Earth and their physical environment with which they interact. All of these organisms and their physical environments are connected with each other.”
After you’ve explained the meaning of an ecosystem, move on to the different components of an ecosystem. These components can be divided into two categories, namely, biotic components and abiotic components. Biotic components are living things such as plants, animals, and decomposers. Abiotic components are non-living parts o the ecosystem that shape its environment, such as water, air, and land.
Examples in the terrestrial ecosystem, include temperature, light, and water. In a marine ecosystem, abiotic factors include salinity and ocean currents. Abiotic and biotic factors work together to create a unique ecosystem.
2) Explain the importance of the interactions
When you teach your children about ecosystems and they understand the basic concepts, explain and emphasize the importance of how living organisms depend on one another for survival.
For example, show them the ecosystem of bees. Bees pollinate flowers which in turn produce food for them and other creatures in the ecosystem.
3) Use real-life examples
The best way to teach your children about ecosystems is through first-hand experience. Take your children outside, whether it is in your garden, in your local park, at the beach, or in the forest, and explore everything you see. Search for decomposers such as earthworms or follow the traces of a squirrel and figure out their ecosystems together.
Do the research before you go and find out about the habitat, and the type of animals, trees, or plants you are likely to find there, and let your child explore and learn about them.
Take them out for walks in nature and observe the world we live in. Let them make a list of all the animals, plants and insects they see and then find out more about them.
In fact, do this on a regular basis. Let your child learn about new trees, plants or animals each time you go out. Why not carry a magnifying glass along so that they can take a close look?
4) Have fun with it
Learning about ecosystems doesn’t have to be boring. Make it fun by incorporating games and activities into the learning experience.
Here are some fun ideas:
- Create an imaginary ecosystem with your kids by using plastic toy animals and plants. They can even build their own habitat out of recycled boxes, paper tubes, sticks, and rocks.
- If you have a backyard or a garden, designate a part of it as a wildlife area and plant wildflowers to attract butterflies and bees. Or make a shelter for insects.
- If you have a balcony, set up birdfeeders for some surprise visitors!
- Encourage your child to sponsor an animal at a local sanctuary or at a rescue center so that they can receive updates about how the animal is doing.
- Read books about wildlife or play games.
- Let your child write about their favorite, tree, animal, or insect. Let them learn more about these and write from their viewpoint.
- Let your child carry a little book in their bag. Ask them to pick an animal or insect or plant and write a report about it.
- Encourage your child to ask questions about what they see around them, in the garden.
- Explain the concept of reduce-recycle-reuse, conservation and how it can make a difference.
- Gift your child tools to enjoy and learn about the ecosystem. For example, a magnifying glass, and binoculars will help them observe closely.
- Play games like scavenger hunts to learn about nature and make it interactive.
- Make them aware of how many species are slowly becoming extinct or endangered. For example, the Madagascan Lemur is at risk of disappearing from the earth in 20 years.
5) Use Online Resources
The internet is full of excellent resources such as videos, websites, educational games and quizzes, and apps to teach your children about ecosystems.
For example, you can get videos on symbiosis for kids which are a great way to illustrate the importance of interactions between species in an ecosystem. Also use educational games that focus on specific ecosystems, for example, in the jungle or under the sea.
Let’s educate our children about the importance of ecosystems and show them by example so that they become caring citizens of the world even as they explore and care for the environment.
“Tell me and I will forget
Show me and I will remember
Involve me and I will understand
Step back and I will act”
Old Chinese proverb
Making it fun and engaging is a great way to teach your children about ecosystems and show them why we need to protect our natural resources and our ecosystems.