It is our patriotic responsibility to leave America and the Earth better than we found it, to give future generations opportunities we never had. Some generations have not lived up to this task, but this is not an excuse for us to do the same. Our future leaders are in elementary school, just as our current leaders were years ago. We must treat them as capable leaders to make sure we are training them properly.
It is a lot easier to lay a good foundation from the start than have to go back later to fix a cracked one. We should do our best to facilitate a love for the Earth. In Mississippi, especially the capital city of Jackson, we have been reactive to environmental issues instead of proactive. The way to be most proactive is to target the youngest people!
Free frequent field trips to rivers, lakes, beaches, streams, and forests with on-site level-appropriate lesson plans is a great place to start. There is no need to go excessive distances or pay outrageous museum fees to foster intellectual curiosity in our young people. Teachers and students alike should know that the entire world (natural and man-made) is an opportunity to learn. Learning is not exclusive to the traditional classroom setting.
When going to bodies of water, young scientists with test tubes can stomp into the water to measure salt content or pH. In forests or parks, students can count plants and animals on their fingers. They will learn about different species and the relative level of biodiversity. Newton’s laws can be shown on any hill with low-friction objects. For both performing and visual arts, students can find that nature can be both a muse and a stage for expression. It is imperative that students know how people have fought to destroy or preserve the natural wonders of the world in context of their history classes.
Many of these lessons will be different from area to area, year to year, and even class to class, but the background is the same. Students will leave school with the same core knowledge, but a broad range of experience applying it outside of the traditional classroom as well.
For now, I am not the supreme ruler of education in America, or even Mississippi, but I do challenge you to do this with the young people you know. Take your son, daughter, cousin, sister, brother, family friends’ kids, whoever outside and see how much entertainment they can find! They’ll be learning without the feeling of school. If you do this, please let me know in a comment!