Children see the world through innocent eyes, eyes that see the unique beauty in even the most unimpressive puddle. To them, a tree is not just a plant but an entire jungle gym of adventure; a small plot of pines is not just a barrier between yards but an entire forest full of mystical creatures; a day at the beach is never simply sun and sand but the search for pirate treasure and lost shipwrecks.
By nurturing our species’ youngest members, by encouraging them to play outside, we are not only bolstering their imaginations but also encouraging creative problem solving, better concentration and social development. Kids who enjoy nature also grow up with an innate sense of responsibility and respect for the environment and all it has to offer.
Today, unfortunately, fewer and fewer children get the chance to enjoy nature at all. We’re losing our green spaces to development, losing our fresh air and oceans to pollution, losing our love of the outdoors to video games and the constant barrage of televised, mind-numbing entertainment.
How do we reconnect our youth with nature? How do we continue to teach our kids the importance of protecting our wild places? How do we reinvigorate children’s enthusiasm for playing outside? Here at Izilwane, we’re trying to combat the ever-growing apathy toward nature and provide youth – and those who work with them – with tools they can use to both learn and teach: a comprehensive and ever-growing list of resources for teachers; a story corner, which will feature anecdotal tales of youth connecting to nature; photo and video galleries that illustrate Izilwane’s work with students from around the world; and articles that highlight some of the strategies international educators are using to reach out to local children.
The youth section is an online media platform where young people share their experiences and perceptions of the natural environment. We hope that, through this process, young people will enhance their understanding of their place in the global ecosystem and demystify global environmental challenges.
Our specific focus is on biodiversity and human beings’ relationships with other species and nature. We are particularly interested in young people’s perceptions of their own local environments – from their regions to their own backyards. We are looking for young people’s thoughts about endangered species as well as the everyday variety – their reflections on mosquitoes, mice, mutts and mustangs. Biodiversity is everywhere, and Izilwane’s goal is to awaken us to this reality.
Izilwane’s youth section is also a place for teachers and those who manage youth-oriented environmental projects to submit contributions from students and youth. In addition, we hope that adults will choose to expand their exploration of the natural world by viewing that world through younger eyes.
We hope that you will visit us to explore some of the resources we have to offer. If you would like to contribute to our youth section, please free to contact us. We are always looking for interesting projects to support and experiences to write about, and we’d love to hear from you!
— Kathryn Pardo