Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Conservation and Outdoor Education in the Schools
Nature Bulletin No. 374-A   March 21, 1970
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

Given a favorable climate, two things make and keep a nation great: its people and its natural resources. The well-being of our nation depends upon the wise use of those resources. They provide our basic requirements -- food, clothing and shelter. There is ample evidence that a very large portion of all teachers recognize the need for conservation and the importance of environmental education. Leading educators say that teachers realize the why of conservation but need help with the what, when, where and how -- how to teach the topic so that it hooks onto the personal lives of their students and is translated into behavior -- how to bring conservation home to all pupils in terms of day-to-day living.

Teachers are key members in any solution of the problems of conservation. At all levels of instruction, they are vitally concerned as teachers and as citizens. Their job is especially difficult in this metropolitan area where so many people are comparatively strangers out-of-doors. Teaching of units of study in science should aim to provide understanding of the fact that man and nature are inseparably bound in an intricate web of interrelationships and interdependencies. The objective should be to create background knowledges and attitudes which will result in action, based upon a feeling of personal responsibility, on the part of every man, woman and child, to protect, maintain and prevent the waste of human and natural resources, which includes the air, water and soil.

Educators agree that since curricula are already overburdened, and since conservation is a synthesis of subjects, its essential ideas and principles can best be taught by inclusion into a wide variety of existing courses, rather than as a new subject "tacked on". Further, for optimum result, environmental education must be based upon knowledge and first hand experiences dealing with local realities easily understood. The individual should become familiar with his own locality and the factors that have entered into its growth. We should learn to appreciate nature; how to live in and enjoy the out-of-doors.

It is an accepted thesis in education that learning takes place faster and is more effective through direct experience. In the outdoors, seeing vitalizes the hearing process and doing makes the learning process more meaningful, supplying a link between the classroom, the textbook, and things as they exist in nature. Further, something happens to individuals in their attitudes toward one another when they live and learn together in a natural environment out-of-doors.

Conservation education means training in educational fundamentals -- in scientific thinking, in citizenship, in individual and community initiative, and in appreciation of natural resources and natural beauties. A conservation education program which succeeds in giving the child the "know howl' to understand and enjoy the out-of-doors, makes him or her a better adjusted individual mentally, emotionally and physically. We have found that nature appreciation, engendered by nature lore acquired firsthand, is the key to the door opening upon a concept of the broad field of conservation. A by-product for the individual is more profitable use of his leisure time and a fuller richer life.

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