" Young children do not have the coping skills to face the tragedies of environmental crises and problems. When faced with the loss of endangered species and environmental degradation, young children may respond with sadness, fear, and helplessness, which can lead to a defensive apathy," notes the North American Association for Environmental Education.
Sobel says that we must focus on teaching empathy for nature to children who are five – the age of our Kindergarteners. He notes the importance for young children to have the opportunity to play like animals, learn about animals, move like deer, and slither like snakes. He explains how to teach empathy for animals in an interview with Rae Pica for the BAM Radio Network. Listen to the interview here.
Writers Edith Cobb and Rachel Carson defined middle childhood as a time when children commune with the natural world. Middle childhood — from age five to age twelve — includes almost the complete age group of students who attend the Garrison School. Sobel studied fort-building by different groups of children in the United States and Great Britain. He asserts that building fairy houses and forts is a natural and necessary activity of middle childhood. Sobel notes that children build fairy houses and forts to create private worlds and explore their own senses of self. During Forest Fridays excursions in the Garrison School Forest last fall, we saw children work together to build fairy houses and to create narratives about them.
"...What is crucial is the opportunity to participate in world-making or world-shaping activities. Children need the opportunity to create, within prescribed limits, small worlds," says Sobel. "The creation of these worlds from shapeable, open-ended materials such as sand, wood, clay, and LEGOs, gives children the opportunity to organize a world and then find places in which they can become themselves." — david sobel
North American Association for Environmental Education. Early Childhood Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence. Washington, DC: North American Association for Environmental Education, 2010. PDF.
Pica, Rae. "Connecting Your Child with Nature — Guest: David Sobel." BAM Radio Network, 9 May 2009. Web. 1 March 2016. Shared with permission of Rae Pica.
Sobel,David. Children's Special Places: Exploring the Role of Forts, Dens, and Bush Houses in Middle Childhood. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2002. Print.