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Environmental education, then and now

March 17, 2011

By Jamie Roche-Knecht
From the time I was very young, I remember my dad taking me out in the wilderness to teach me about the environment. We went fishing, hiking, camping and exploring as often as we could. He taught my older brother and me about trees, wildlife, water and respecting nature. That’s probably why we both went on to become natural resource professionals in our careers.

Back then, things seemed so simple. We lived in rural Wayne County, and all around us was beauty, peace and quiet. As a child, I thought that everyone lived like that; all children had a little piece of paradise to play in. As an adult, I learned that not all children are fortunate enough to have that opportunity to explore and appreciate the outdoors as I did.

In today’s world, there are so many distractions for kids. The advancements in technology have made it easy for some kids to be occupied the majority of the time without even stepping foot outside of their homes or schools—or so I thought.

I started working at the Wayne County Conservation District almost six years ago, and during that time I have had the pleasure of providing environmentally based education to people of all ages, from young children to adults. Through those opportunities, I have learned that people still have a passion for the outdoors. And many of them are passing that passion along to their children and grandchildren. I have also learned that kids today are just as excited about learning in nature as ever before. They are learning a great deal about natural science and the environment in school now, and they are eager to apply that knowledge in an outdoor setting. In many cases, I find that the kids teach me a thing or two by the end of the day.

As adults in today’s society, we need to facilitate those exploration opportunities for our youth. It doesn’t come naturally any more the way it did when I was young. We didn’t have all of the technology that today’s youth have as an alternative, so we were always outside, creating something to do. So taking the time to show a child the beauty in sitting next to a creek and listening to the water flow or hiking through the woods and seeing wildlife in their natural setting is of great importance in keeping the passion alive.

I participate in many educational presentations each year, from our annual Envirothon competition for high school students to presentations at day care centers and for home school groups. We also host a variety of educational programs for adults.