This is how we should be teaching our kids about nature


By Renate Engelbrecht

Tuesday, Oct 04

Principle, Tracey Teague from Eduplex Pre-Primary says a child’s love for nature does not come naturally. Hence, we need to bring it to their attention, and teach them to appreciate and look after it. Bringing it to their attention might also be easier than you think…

Curious minds

As a mother of two toddlers, I am always curious to see how others teach. Nature has always been a must for us as a family. Inevitably, I’ve been looking at ways to incorporate it into various little life lessons as we go along. Nature is the one thing that can instantly calm our busy bees down (and clear mom’s head). A gentle hint of jasmine or the touch of cool green grass under their feet is often all our toddlers need to be okay with the world again.

My work often comes with interesting turns, such as my recent interview with Eduplex Pre-primary School’s principal. My curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to see what makes this school different from the rest. Little did I know…

Eduplex Pre-Primary School Pretoria

Eduplex School, Queenswood, Pretoria

Apart from the fact that this school is a pre-primary, primary and secondary school, they also cater for children from as young as two-and-a-half years old. Plus, they welcome deaf children and let them attend school among hearing kids, ultimately offering them a unique environment that allows them to learn to communicate with others without even having to use sign language. Additionally, hearing children learn to communicate comfortably with physically challenged children too.

Eduplex offers beautifully manicured and maintained gardens. I’m talking lovely rose gardens, large trees and outstretched lawns, as well as a sensory garden, a water feature and fountain, a tropical garden and even a bird hide overlooking a duck pond with ducks splattering and frogs chattering.

Not everyone is a natural nature lover

As someone who loves being in nature, at first I couldn’t understand why Principle Teague would say that a love for nature doesn’t come naturally. She says, though that while nature is all around us, there are so many things that pull children’s attention away from it. In the end, instant gratification has caused much more havoc than one could imagine.

“Children don’t know where food comes from. They think it’s just from the shop. So, we’re going to start our gardens where they can grow their own vegetables to show them that it starts from a seed, and the process it goes through,” says Teague. The veggies will then be used in the children’s daily cooked meals at school, showing them what the world is about.

Children need to understand how delicate nature actually is and how we need to look after it. Hence, as parents and teachers, we need to make an effort to teach our children to appreciate nature.

Ferns at Eduplex School in Pretoria

Why do children need to appreciate nature?

According to Teague, many children aren’t exposed to nature. Many live in flats or houses with small gardens, and parents work full-time and don’t always have the time to take their kids to parks. Still, “nature is a goldmine of learning,” she says. Finally, that’s where schools can play a very important role in giving children access to the gems that nature hold.

Mother Earth is pretty much all we’ve got when it comes to staying alive. Children need to understand where their food, their clothes, the air they breathe and the water they drink come from. Teaching children about nature is a life learning process that cannot be left out.

READ: The one educational toy that every child will enjoy

Sensory garden

What can nature teach your child?

There are various things that nature can teach children, but after my visit to Eduplex, these were the lessons that stood out:

  • Patience. As we see a seed develop into a plant, we learn that things take time. Teague says children struggle with patience these days, as everything today is at the push of a button. Nature teaches them that things take time.
  • Colour. Watching the leaves turn green and later yellow, orange, bright red and brown shows us some of the most beautiful colours. Nature is also often the one place where you get to spot colours in harmony.
  • Time. As the leaves change colour and trees go bare, children get to see and experience seasons changing, which ultimately teaches them the concept of time.
  • Insects. When one looks closer, there are so many little insects and creatures to learn about. From butterflies and beetles to earthworms and lizards.
  • Care. Children will soon learn that if you don’t take care of something, it won’t grow, and it might even die.
Herb garden at school for lessons from nature

How Eduplex teaches children about nature

Eduplex has gone all out in ensuring that when children are at school, they learn as much as possible from whatever nature has to offer on a day-to-day basis. From tadpoles from the duck pond to silkworms’ and their cycles; from rugged tree barks to the most delicate flowers. The teachers are trained to spot lessons from every tree and every trunk.

Teague believes (and I can’t hep but agree) that children need to learn to appreciate nature from as young as possible as that is what could change the world.

“This is the generation we need to teach to take care of nature, because so much is being destroyed. There’s less and less of everything that we as children had. We need to teach this generation the importance of nature and how to look after it.”

Furthermore, children get to play to their hearts’ content in the lovely gardens. There are swings that help with sensory integration. There are jungle gyms where kids get to test their own abilities and bravery in a controlled environment. There are water fountains where children get to experiment with floating leaves and sinking rocks. There are sensory walkways where children get to experience the different sensations as they walk across.

Nature at school

Teague says the school’s gardens boast freedom, space and tranquility for both children and teachers alike. “There is so much to explore, so much to find out about. You can do an entire lesson just from a walk in the garden.”

Take it home

  • Plant things at home and put them in the windowsill. Beans and herbs work wonderfully, even in a small space like a gardenless flat. You can have your own little at-home garden in a pot.
  • Get silkworms and let your child learn about their life cycle.
  • Take the time to go to parks and watch the seasons change.
  • Go on nature walks and bring back items from nature that your child can be creative with.
  • Attract birds, insects and butterflies with certain plants and keep a close eye on them to see how they change and adapt to different seasons.

While having schools like Eduplex make a difference in our children’s lives and their futures one flower at a time, teaching our kids to appreciate nature is also a parental responsibility that should not be neglected. Bring it to their attention and watch how they see the world from a whole new perspective.

Nature with water feature and fountain

Follow Suitcase & Chardonnay on Instagram for more pictures and videos from my visit at the school.


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