With RMFI’s third annual partnership with the Catamount Institute’s “Dirt Camp” this month, we felt the need to discuss the importance of introducing environmental concepts at a young age. Dirt Camp is a weeklong summer camp sponsored by the Catamount Institute. It allows children the opportunity to get their hands dirty by helping RMFI complete various conservation/restoration work projects in the Garden of the Gods. These kids learn a variety of conservation techniques and how the structures we install help to improve the natural areas we work in. The trails we build are placed to not only provide access to the public, but also to protect the non-designated areas from erosion, habitat fragmentation, and other impacts. These are lifelong lessons and skills that we hope stay with these kids as they grow older. With increasing demand and visitation, it’s important to educate the kids about trail etiquette, such as staying on the designated trails and avoiding areas not intended for human traffic. Teaching children about trail maintenance and showing them all the hard work that’s put into them will hopefully instill a sense of respect for nature.
Exposing and educating young children about the environment at a young age can play an important role in shaping lifelong attitudes, values, and patterns of behavior toward natural environments. The earlier youth become accustomed to the outdoors, the more of a connection they will feel. Positive interactions with the environment such as Dirt Camp help enforce this level of connection.
Beyond the outdoor experience, parents and educators can help influence young children’s behavior toward nature and the planet. Valuable lessons can be taught at school and at home including:
• Healthy eating habits
• Water conservation
• Replacements for plastic products
• Electricity and fossil fuel reduction
Remember, children are the future to a clean and green planet !