Connecting children with nature

2016-12-07 06:02
PHOTO: supplied

PHOTO: supplied

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THERE is growing evidence that connecting children to nature is an important and vital part of childhood development.

Stephen Kellert, a leading social ecologist in this field, who died recently, stressed that daily contact with nature is critical for children.

There are many benefits for children when they experience nature and the natural world. These include their health, their productivity, their creativity, their problem-solving skills and their physical and emotional well being.

A recent study in Switzerland discovered that children spend only 20 minutes a day playing outside compared to the three to four hours during the 1970s.

Connecting children to nature is the overall theme for the annual Happy Earth Festival and unites the many participating organisations.

During the festival on 20 and 21 April 2017 at the Botanical Gardens, there is a strong focus on experiential learning, giving pupils from all backgrounds the opportunity to interact with nature in a positive and structured way.

Participating organisations represent a wide range of environmental education. Over the past four years the core organisations of the festival include the Bessie Head Library, Botanical Society, Department of Environmental Affairs, Duct, Keep Pietermaritzburg Clean Association, Karkloof Conservancy, KZN Museum, KZN Wildlife, Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation, Mphomomeni Conservation Group, PMMBT P.E.A.C.E. Project, SANBI, Sunshine Bread, UKZN, Ushaka Marine World, WESSA Umgeni Valley, WESSA Eco-Schools and Working on Fire.

“We hope to reach 1 400 pupils over the two-day festival next year. The pupils are split into groups and each organisation prepares a hands-on activity for roughly 20 to 30 minutes. Flow managers ensure the smooth change-over thus giving the children the opportunity to be exposed to various organisations during the morning.

“Apart from being a wonderful marketing opportunity for the organisations, there is also an outreach component as organisations can reach pupils who may otherwise never come into contact with their teaching and programmes,” said Dr Friederike Voigt, festival organiser.

To be a part of the Happy Earth Festival in 2017 phone Voigt on 082 779 6766 or email

There is always a need for sponsorship to transport pupils to the event. The organisers thank regular sponsors Rotary Club, Botanical Society, Sunshine Bread, Parklane Spar, Mayors Walk Spar, Fairfield Dairy and Bluff Meat. - Supplied.

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