Environment education (EE) offers opportunities to learn about our natural environment and natural systems.
Nature is naturally multisensory, flowing and changing, just as we humans are as part of nature. Seasons, life cycles and weather changes all produce opportunities for creative thinking and play with multisensory exploration for all ages.
Urban resilience, adaptability through new challenges and over-coming obstacles are provided for children without structured play equipment. Designed natural and sensory play spaces allow Nature to teach life skills that will be invaluable for evolving and challenging future life experiences and environmental conditions. Indigenous plants, intergenerational and multi-cultural aspects may be incorporated within designs allowing for scope of community building interaction and education.
"The children not only loved spending time in the garden getting their hands dirty but they strived to know more about the environment that they are living in. The environmental workshops with Debbie allowed the children to be inspired and it also encouraged the children to make choices for a healthy living for themselves but also for the planet." -Nadia Ghani, Preschool Teacher, Australian International School Singapore. 2013
It is well documented that feelings of well-being and relaxation are felt through working in the garden and children are often very enthusiastic about lesson plans, workshops and enrichment classes based around nature.
Deb facilitates Environmental Education and assists with Garden Design for sensory, edible, biodiversity/habitat rejuvenation and educational purposes. She loves to work with ELCs and schools assisting teachers and students to create and implement their own garden design specific to their requirements and location.
There are many curriculum and pedagogical advantages for learning based on the latest and over 20 years of research and case studies of gardens in education facilities. In the past, gardens in schools were viewed for aesthetic value rather than sites for learning. The purpose of redesigning a school garden is for academic, behavioural, recreational, social, political, aesthetic, sustainability, ecological and remediation benefits. These gardens are often referred to as a ‘Teaching Garden’ or a ‘ Learning Landscape.’
Educational research studies show that enhanced social and academic learning for students and teachers emerge from school garden programs in formal school curriculums. Educational values covering all areas of the curriculum may be integrated into a school garden; including science, art, mathematics and technology and offer tangible learning opportunities rather than abstract concepts.
Other potential beneficial impacts for students and families include the exposure to fresh produce, increased knowledge of nutrition and food life cycles which may lead to improved nutritional intake, lower obesity and chronic disease, higher academic performance and changes in family consumption and conservation practices.
In Early Learning Centers, sensory stimulation is vital for ages 0-5 for brain development. Urban resilience, adaptability through new challenges and overcoming obstacles are provided for children without structured play equipment. Children engage in carefully considered risk-taking opportunities within designed natural and sensory play spaces. These life skills will be invaluable for changing and challenging future life experiences and environmental conditions.
Connecting children with nature is an example where change has occurred greatly over the past 20 years in Western Civilizations. School gardens have shown positive results of students over the past 20 years, obesity and health concerns are addressed as well as attention deficit disorders, attendance and well-being. Richard Louv in his book titled; ‘Last Child in the Woods’ coined the term ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ and discusses current childhoods of many western countries and the impacts on the wellness of children and society. Research by Virginia L.Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims suggest that children will care more for the environment and foster an appreciation of nature by connecting while young. “The childhood influences of being raised near woods, spending time in places with trees, planting plants, and caring for plants all had positive influences on the adult opinion of whether trees have spiritual meaning.” Social aspects with urban planting schemes are more successful utilizing children connected with nature while young and promotes a sense of community which impacts on behavioral attitudes regarding use of the Earths resources and sustainable ways of living. With evident climate change these children will be required to care about the environment and find creative solutions to environmental problems in the coming decades.
"... to develop a world population that is aware of, and concerned about the environment and its associated problems, and which has has the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations, and commitment to work individually and collectively towards solutions of current problems and prevent new ones."
Goal of environmental education according to the Belgrade Charter. (UNESCO, 1996, p.2)
Staff Professional Development engages teachers in connecting with nature and avenues to enhance their lives and their students. In turn, the learning and connecting with nature leads to care of the environment; we will protect what we love.
"I attended two of Debbie's workshops, and they were such a personal awakening for me. I caressed seedlings and planted them carefully. I handled soil with my bare hands, pulled apart roots, and re-planted a pot of Cuphea... yes, all without gloves nor a spade! The woody scent of soil and the grainy touch reconnected me with nature. Reminded me of the simple direct link we have with the flora and fauna around us. The experience may seemed ordinary, but as an urban dweller in Singapore, never was I such an intimate participant. It was a good start." - Serena Ho. Preschool Teacher Assistant (Australian International School Singapore. Environmental Education Workshop and Professional Development. 2012)
Workshops offered include seasonal growing workshops, restoring habitats, reducing energy use, conservation, recycling, and creating eco-systems for local species.
"Roots creep underground everywhere and make a firm foundation. Shoots seem very weak, but to reach the light, they can break open brick walls. Imagine that the brick walls are all the problems we have inflicted on our planet. Hundreds of thousands of roots & shoots, hundreds of thousands of young people around the world, can break through these walls. We CAN change the world."
Dr. Jane Goodall
Australian International School of Singapore-Newsletter Publications related to Environmental Education
Recently, Ms. Debbie (Emu Class T.A., Landscape Designer and Horticulturist) attended 'The Curriculum and Pedagogical Value of Gardens in Schools' presentation by Professor Hillary Whitehouse at the James Cook University. The presentation informed educators of the many curriculum and pedagogical advantages for learning based on the latest and over 20 years of research and case studies of gardens in education facilities....