On a sunny morning, teacher Rachael Singer takes her class of curious preschoolers out for an afternoon stroll. A few students suddenly stop and fixate on a yellow and black fuzzy caterpillar inching its way across a large green leaf. The children, excited about finding a new little friend, are eager to capture the creature in a jar and bring him back to the classroom. This is when Singer explains to them the values of Leave No Trace.
Leave No Trace is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education of responsible outdoor ethics. LNT teaches that in order to maintain a healthy environment, people must leave minimal impact on the environment and resist taking nature home; not doing so will disrupt habitats that may be invisible to the human eye. LNT recognizes that sometimes exceptions are acceptable. For example, children who pick a flower and witness the wilting process will realize this happened when it was taken from earth. LNT offers great lessons for children and encourages parents and educators to deliver the principles in an engaging and playful way.
Teaching Leave No Trace is as easy as 1 …2 …3:
1. Always Clean Up! Clean up after every activity, especially all picnics and outdoor events, as any single piece of trash is damaging to the environment. Just like in the classroom by singing the “clean up” song children will delight in keeping the outdoors as clean as their indoors.
2. Animals are living beings too! Teach children the value of and respect for animals by using friendship as the analogy – you would never want to hurt a friend physically or by damaging their property. The best way to protect animals is to respect animals.
3. Stick to the Trails! Teach children to stay on the trails and to watch their step because living organisms are everywhere and may be difficult to see.
The best way to have a positive adventure is to plan ahead. Understand the hike or park you are visiting and bring the necessary items to leave the area trace-free. Encourage imagination and curiosity on the trail and then journal, color, and sing about what was discovered when you return home or to the classroom.