Heritage Conservancy and Fairmount Water Works are launching a Social-Emotional Learning and Nature Guide for teachers, administrators, counselors and parents interested in providing nature-related activities for children. The guide consists of 13 activities, handouts, tools and resources designed to use children’s experiences in nature as a doorway to encourage and support SEL in and out of the classroom.
“Nature is a connector. We are all linked through the land we live on, the water we drink, the air we breathe, memories from trips and things we like or don’t like about the outdoors,” said Heritage Conservancy community engagement programs manager Shannon Fredebaugh-Siller. “The simple activities in this SEL and Nature Guide can be used to support people, especially students at school, home or in their community to grow their self-awareness and connection with the outdoors.”
SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions. SEL programs provide an educational framework that focuses on building mental, emotional and interpersonal skills that lead to positive outcomes for students and communities as a whole. It encourages schools, families and caregivers to focus energy and effort on the core competencies of self-management, self-awareness, responsible decision-making, social skills and social awareness.
Children today face an entirely new set of challenges than previous generations, thanks in part to the effects of the pandemic and the increased reliance on technology and social media. According to the CDC, over 6 million U.S. children between the ages of 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Additionally, many children do not have adequate access to mental health resources at school, home or anywhere else. Providing children with tools and strategies to use in managing stress and anxiety at an early age can have life-long benefits as they move into adolescence and adulthood.
Exposure to nature has been linked to numerous health benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood and even upticks in empathy and cooperation. In addition, studies indicate that time spent outdoors leads to increased connectedness to nature and greater pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors. Helping children build their relationship with nature at a young age can positively impact their health and ultimately lead to them becoming more environmentally-conscious adults.
Interested parties can access the Heritage Conservancy and Fairmount Water Works SEL and Nature Guide by visiting heritageconservancy.org or call Heritage Conservancy at 215-345-7020, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Questions regarding implementation or requests for additional support should be directed to Fredebaugh-Siller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The SEL and Nature Guide is a free resource for the general public and appropriate for a variety of age ranges. Funding for this multi-year project was provided by the Alliance for Watershed Education, Foundations Community Partnership and Educational Improvement Tax Credit business contributions.