In this day and age, it often feels like we humans, have completely detached ourselves from the environment. Living in an urban ecosystem comfort bubble, we assume that we are completely separate from the rest of the world. However, we often forget that we are a part of the environment and that our actions have an impact on it. Moreover, the changes that we have been experiencing over the past few years have been an eye-opener, making us more conscious of environmental issues. This begs the question, do we know enough about the environment? To learn what we can do to help save the environment, a good environmental awareness is required.
What is environmental awareness?
Environmental awareness helps us to understand the world around us and to find our identity within it. It is a process that allows individuals to explore environmental issues, engage in problem-solving, and take action to improve the environment. As a result, individuals develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and have the skills to make informed and responsible decisions. Learning about the environment also helps us to be more in tune with nature and the changes happening within it.
Environmental education includes awareness and sensitivity to the environment as well as environmental challenges. With the knowledge obtained through environmental education, attitudes of concern for the environment and the motivation to improve or maintain environmental quality can be developed. This leads to participation in activities that lead to the resolution of environmental challenges. Although environmental education would benefit anyone, young people would be the most fitting recipients and beneficiaries of such an education.
Why is environmental awareness important?
Environmental education teaches individuals how to weigh various sides of an issue through critical thinking and enhance their own problem-solving and decision-making skills.It increases public awareness and knowledge of environmental issues and also fosters environmental stewardship in the youth.
Of the 8.4 million people of New York City, almost 21% are under the age of 18. They are the future of the planet and if this young section of the population can be given a sound environmental education, we can ensure that the next several generations are in safe hands.
Currently, there are pressing environmental issues that need urgent action. If the world is to remain a supportive habitat for humans and other species, we must all join forces to protect it. Major threats to the environment include pollution, climate change, deforestation, species extinction, and soil degradation. Although not all, some of these problems can be solved only with the help of every person's contribution. For example; Only 17% of the recycling capacity of trash is presently done In New York City. If New Yorkers recycled at their maximum potential, about 68 percent of the 3 million tons of trash produced in the city's homes, municipal buildings, and schools each year could be diverted from landfills. To achieve this, the only solution is that every individual practices sorting out waste at home, schools, and offices.
Oftentimes, kids have a passion and fascination for the environment but cannot develop these interests due to various constraints. If they are given a chance to explore these interests, they could not only save the world but also build careers out of it. However, providing the environmental education to kids in a fun interactive way should be a priority. If not done well, environmental education can get incredibly monotonous and preachy. Especially for kids, this type of learning style is not recommended. So what if kids could learn about the environment in a fun and simple way? The Environmental Museum in New York City offers exactly that.
How does an environmental museum increase environmental awareness?
Museum education is a type of non-formal education or education outside of formal educational settings. It is a free choice-learning experience in which the learner exercises a large degree of choice and control over the what, when, and why of learning. This type of learning plays a major role in lifelong learning. Most environmental learning is not acquired within the school but outside, through free choice-learning experiences.
Young minds are very mouldable. For a child, the visual brain getting triggered in a non-school setting and interactive experiences in museums leave lasting impressions. Hence, something that they see or learn will be retained in his/ her mind for a long time. Besides, learning by doing (with the various activities planned at the museum) enforces the learning process. By doing the activities themselves, the kids get to see first-hand how things work.
Particularly targeted at the children and youth of New York City, the Environmental Museum aims to provide holistic environmental education for the future generations of this city. This can bring about small changes in actions of everyday life which will lead to a greater collective good. This motivation could lead to them becoming saviours of the planet! Apart from awareness about environmental issues, the activities in the Environmental museum also teach children critical-thinking by enhancing their problem-solving and decision-making skills.
Activities planned at the Environmental Museum New York
The environmental museum focuses more on learning by doing than by only perusing through exhibits. Fun activities that provide opportunities for families or groups to learn together, while encouraging a love for nature and the environment are the target of these activities. Some of the activities include horticultural therapy, plant workshops, aquatic stations, and explorer programs.
Doesn’t this all sound exciting already?
After spending some time in nature, we often feel our moods improving. This is because interacting with plants can improve our mental well-being. Horticultural therapy is a professional practice that uses plants and gardening to improve mental and physical health. It has even helped people dealing with depression and dementia to heal faster. Being with plants also improves blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormone levels which all over time, lead to a longer life.
The plant workshop teaches people how to work with plants. This includes everything from soil preparation to harvesting the produce. The workshop includes all the information about which plants to use for what purpose (for example- medicinal plants), how to grow them and how to take care of them.
The Explorer Program (takes place in the Environmental Museum Vegetable Garden) offers kids the perfect opportunity to get outside and get their hands dirty. Guided by environmental instructors, children plant, tend, and harvest fresh vegetables and herbs, and learn about topics ranging from pollination to composting. Each gardening season offers unique and engaging activities customized for kids. This makes it the perfect opportunity for kids to have some hands-on exposure in interacting with the environment and learning by doing.
You could also bring your toddler on a guided hike through the garden to discover the best spots in the garden in each season! This hour-long program is designed for young children and their caregivers to explore areas of the environment that captivate the little nature lovers. Each session includes songs, stories, and take-home projects.
Most Saturdays in the summer, the Aquatic Station at the museum hosts a program for children where the topics change from week to week. A previous topic was “Touching Station”. In this program, children (with proper supervision and safety) were able to use their hands to feel and touch different kinds of sea creature species. Fascinating themes such as Animals of the Sea, What is a Plankton?, Fun with Fish, and Let’s clean the Ocean are planned at the Aquatic station.
The Environmental Gardening program encourages the idea that anyone can grow a garden. We believe that planting a garden has the power to change the world. Whether it is a few pots on your windowsill or a full-fledged garden on your rooftop, you are doing your bit in contributing to growing clean food. The foundational skills of organic gardening and how to grow and harvest food from your garden is given through this program. The program also helps people to learn the basics of today’s complex food systems and become self-reliant in terms of food.
All these activities have been designed to heighten the younger generations’ and maybe also adults’ sensitivity to the environment and its issues. Valuable lessons would be learned and in a significant way, the Environmental museum will contribute to empowering the youth of New York City with methods that could save the environment.
With proper guidance and learning activities, providing children in cities with environmental awareness is of the utmost importance. The Environmental Museum in New York aims to make your child an environmentally responsible citizen. Through the environmental museum could also be your chance to get your kids excited about Environmental Science.
Anyone can take meaningful action to save the earth if equipped with the right awareness and knowledge. After acquiring this from the Environmental Museum New York, your child could go on to save the world!