Guest Post: Next Generation Conservation Education

by Brady Corns

We’ve all heard the saying “kids are the future”. Most often we hear this in reference to education systems and politics, but this phrase certainly applies when it comes to conservation. If we want to make change and see our planet thrive, we need to continue to educate young children so that the next generation will see just how important it is to conserve resources and protect wildlife.

Conservation education is not something that I would have ever thought about pursuing as a career. When I started college, I knew I wanted to work with animals, but I was unsure of the specific career path that I would choose. I thought for sure that I wanted to be a zookeeper or wildlife rehabilitator, but that all changed when I gained a new perspective. This past summer, I took a job at The Wilds in Cumberland, Ohio working as an Educator in the Conservation Education department. This meant that I would be working with summer camps for kids of all ages. At first, I was terrified. I did not think that I wanted to work with kids, but the job seemed nice enough so I figured, “Why not?”. Little did I know that this job would change everything for me.

At first, the job was tiring and the days were long, but I quickly realized the impact that I was having on my campers. I saw that they were genuinely interested in the things that I had to say. Each week of camp we taught the kids the meaning of conservation and what it would look like for them to put that into practice. This started with little things like conserving water, saving electricity, letting bugs and insects go instead of squishing them, etc. The list goes on and on. We also did our best to teach them about all the different aspects of nature. We showed them that everything was connected and that the success of an ecosystem was dependent on many factors, including humans.

Some weeks, we also did larger projects with the campers. We made leaf litter traps to study salamanders. We studied a nearby stream and taught them about some of the different factors that determine the health of a stream. We taught them about species survival plans and the importance of species specific research. These are just a few of the many programs that we taught the campers during their time with us.

The programs that we taught these kids made a bigger impact than I could have ever imagined. I got to watch them learn to appreciate nature. I got to see them become budding conservationists. I got to be a part of something bigger than myself. I never thought that this would be the path I took, but I am eternally grateful to have had even a small impact on how they see the world. Cliché or not, these kids really are the future. It is our responsibility to teach them through word and deed. Baba Dioum put it best when he said “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught”. If we don’t teach them, who will? If we don’t show them, who will? You never know how much of a difference you could make in a child’s life. They’re going to change the world, but we have to show them how.

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