To Teach Your Teen to Care for Wildlife, Start in Your Own Backyard

By Leigh Marcos

The earth is sick. Human activity has caused global temperatures to rise and multiple species to go extinct, and while we may not feel the effects of these changes immediately, it’s only a matter of time before they wreak havoc on our lives — that is, if we don’t do anything about it. But it’s not too late. As parents, it’s our job to prepare our children to take on the stewardship of Mother Earth and its creatures. What can homeschooling parents do to encourage teens to care for wildlife and take a more active role in preserving the environment?

Learn About the Wild Animals in Your Area

Your teen may know more about exotic animals that live in far-flung places than the creatures that live in your own backyard, so make it a point to learn about the common wild animals you can find in your area. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier to make opportunities to interact with local wildlife when you’re homeschooling. While students in traditional schools spend most days stuck inside, you can easily make the great outdoors your classroom. You could start by taking a trip to a local wildlife preserve or rescue center to learn about your local wildlife and what you can do to help them flourish.

Some simple ways to care for wildlife is by helping local birds. Bird populations in North America are declining drastically, thanks to climate change, pollution, and habitat loss. You could put up a bird feeder, build a birdhouse, or install decals on your windows to make them more bird-safe. This won’t just give you more opportunities to watch birds closely, but will also give your teen more opportunities to work with their hands.

And though birds are especially vulnerable, you don’t have to stop there. Leave a brush pile in your yard to give small animals like rabbits and raccoons shelter from wind and rain. In the spring, plant a flowering garden to help butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. You and your teen could also volunteer to clean up nearby beaches or streams on a regular basis.

How to Foster a Love For Nature

Being in nature is great for your teen’s mental health, but not all teens will take to being out in nature immediately, especially if they’re more accustomed to staying indoors. Fortunately, a love for nature is something that can be cultivated. Zone in on activities your child is interested in and work from there. For example, a teen who loves photography may enjoy taking landscapes or photos of animals at a park, local zoo, or even just in your yard. If your child enjoys sports, encourage your teen to try athletic activities that allow him or her to get up close and personal with nature and wildlife, like kayaking down a river or mountain climbing.

Get Involved

Increase your teen’s awareness by staying updated on environmental news (from reputable sources, of course). Be careful not to dwell on the negative, and focus instead on instilling hope by being proactive. Brainstorm ideas on what you can do to help care for wildlife. This could include writing letters to your local politicians, or simply making small changes in the way you consume goods.

By modeling good stewardship for the environment, you’re teaching your teen to be more compassionate and mindful of the way they treat the world around them. For example, you can cut down on single-use plastics by using canvas bags when you shop for your grocery and opting for refillable toiletries. You could also make a point to buy local organic produce — not only is it better for the environment, it’s also a great way to support your local economy. Passion and purpose are contagious, so if you want to raise an earth-loving teen, start with yourself.

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