Around 97 percent of the world's tigers have disappeared in the last 100 years. These magnificent creatures, (along with other iconic animals like gorillas, giant pandas, and blue whales) might be a thing of the past before long. This is our doing, and our children deserve to be informed about the reality of the world they will inherit from us. Learning through play remains the best approach to educate children while keeping them entertained, and there are endless ways to incorporate this kind of information into something that’s fun and engaging. Here are a couple ideas to start you off with:
Active Story Time
Everyone loves a good story. Invent one about a monkey missing his favorite tree, or a seagull that got its feet caught in a fishing net, or choose a book on the topic if you’re having a hard time thinking of one on your own. Hand out some puppets or dolls and have the children play as the characters. Make sure to be as informative as you can about the causes of the problems in the story and preventative measures that can be taken to avoid them. Alternately, charades is a creative game for “stepping into” the paws, hooves, fins, and flippers of the animals that are suffering from the impact humans have on their homes. Figuring out how mime “polar bear feeling too hot” or “plastic bag in the ocean” are sure to get those cogs turning, and are bound to produce some creative results.
A Trip To The National Park
Learning about nature is best done in nature. Combine a vacation with education at one of the 58 national parks in the United States. If you have a 4th grader in your ranks, you can get free passes for the whole family. You can discuss waste reduction while you pack, maybe let each child pick out a personal reusable water bottle if they don’t have one already. Avoid boredom during the trip by challenging your family to note the changes in the landscape as you drive past, and guess which animals are likely to inhabit different environments.
There is plenty to do upon arrival - you can participate in Junior Ranger Programs or geological scavenger hunts, or make use of the beautiful camping sites - a great opportunity to talk about why there are food and fire policies, and how to navigate if you get lost in the wilderness. Take turns pretending to be different animals coming to visit - the excitement of play will ensure that the knowledge sticks. Stay safe, have fun, and learn as much as you can.