Our Kids’ Earth: What’s your best web link for our kids?

NASA Earth Observatory Home Page Image

CLICK this image from NASA to visit the homepage of the agency’s fascinating online “Earth Observatory.”

The web has so much information about the environment that it’s hard to know where to start. What are your recommendations? Below are a few of mine.

This week we’ve covered the growing conundrum of how to get kids off their electronics and outside in nature (and the benefits of doing so), the stories that help kids fall in love with nature, how kids around the globe worry about the Earth, and how many American kids fear the end of the Earth as they know it. Today, we look at some links that can help educate our children (and ourselves) about the Earth.

Sharon Lowe, founder of Habitat Heroes—sponsor of the survey that revealed how terrified our children are—says we have to find a way to educate our children about the environment without scaring them. According to a press release, she said:

“I am more committed than ever to help educate children around the globe in a way that is not scary to them. Hopefully Habitat Heroes fills a void and gives us the opportunity to raise awareness in ways that children embrace to maintain a healthy and beautiful planet.”

Here are links to five resources I really like:

NASA—The agency’s earth observatory offers awesome photos of the planet

GREEN STRIDESThis is a collection of links from the US Department of Education for schools, teachers, students, and parents; it covers reduced environmental impact and cost, health and wellness, environmental and sustainability education, state-based green school programs, and more.

KIDS.GOVHere’s a collection of links to resources for young children, parents, and teachers from the official kids’ portal for the U.S. government.

EPA—Of course, there’s the U.S. EPA’s website for teaching and learning about the environment.

GEOLOGICAL SURVEY—I also like the U.S. Geological Survey resources for learning about the water cycle—in a multitude of languages.

Now, it’s your turn …

What’s your favorite web link for our kids? Share your ideas in a comment, below, or on your favorite social media using the hash tag we created: #OurKidsEarth

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Our Kids’ Earth: ‘Teach Your Children Well …’ Did we mess up?

Google Earth Day and Teach Your Children Well

REFLECTING ON OUR WORLD, THEN & NOW: In 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young released their anthem, “Teach Your Children Well,” opening with: “You who are on the road, Must have a code that you can live by …” This week, Google reminded the world of Earth Day 2015.

How well have we heeded the 1970 song lyric Teach Your Children Well when it comes to caring about the Earth? The answer is complicated, and it depends on how you define “well.”

Many young children are terrified about the Earth’s future, according to a just-released poll of American kids ages 6 to 11. A third worry that the planet won’t even exist by the time they grow up. A clear majority (56%) fear the Earth will be devastated by the time they grow up.

The poll, commissioned by Habitat Heroes, also found that kids are the most worried: 75% of Black children and 65% of Hispanic children worry that the Earth will have deteriorated by the time they grow up.

So, we’ve certainly done a good job terrifying our children about the world they will inherit.

At the same time, American adults’ worries about the environment are near record lows, according to a new Gallup survey. Concerns about drinking water, air quality, rain forests, and global warming were the highest in from late 1980s to the early 2000s. Worries hit historic lows around 2010 and 2011, blipped up slightly, and then fell back in 2015. Today, 50% of Americans rate the overall quality of the environment as excellent or good—the highest since 2001.

Do the Gallup results imply that we are conflicted about the message we send our children?

Is it helpful to have so many children so worried about the Earth’s future?

Share Your Ideas …

This week, share your pictures and ideas on your favorite social media and use the hash tag we created: #OurKidsEarth

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Our Kids’ Earth: It’s not just American kids who worry about the Earth!

Kenyan girls planting trees

Kenyan girls work on a tree-planting project near their village. (USAID-Africa photo)

EARTH DAY is today—a worldwide event that demonstrates support for protecting the environment. And youth around the globe will be participating because they are just as worried about the environment as American youth are.

Will global participation make a positive difference?

American kids are concerned about the environment and very likely to blame previous generations for messing it up and leaving it to their generation to fix, according to a Nature Conservancy poll.

Kids in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas are also worried, says a survey of more than 6,000 children across 47 nations. Education, food, and the environment are their top three concerns. Some of their solutions included planting more trees, building green spaces, and decreasing littering.

Animal extinction is the number one concern of Canadian kids ages 8 to 11, according to a just-released Ipsos survey. Other big concerns include litter, air and water pollution, deforestation, loss of animal habitat, and wasting energy, the poll finds.

Almost nine of ten Canadian youth (85%) said it was very important to do something to protect the environment. Their actions include using reusable bottles, turning off lights when not in use, reducing water use, and picking up litter.

Are you encouraged by our kids’ concern for their earth?

Will American kids—and their cohorts around the globe—be able to solve the environmental problems we’re bequeathing them?

Share Your Ideas …

This week, share your pictures and ideas on your favorite social media and use the hash tag we created: #OurKidsEarth

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Our Kids’ Earth: What stories help kids fall in love with nature?

Survivorman Les StroudThere are many ways to get kids interested in nature—direct experience, of course, but books and films can also do the trick. Would you turn to Survivorman to get kids to fall in love with nature?

The television program Survivorman piqued my young son’s interest in the outdoors and survival skills. This show is produced in Canada by Les Stroud, a survival expert and filmmaker, and it has taken him to remote locations around the world.

The show’s unique angle is that Stoud survives entirely alone for seven to ten days, bringing only minimal equipment (like a multi-tool) and no food or water. He has to find or make shelter, secure food, and get water on location. He brings his own camera equipment and films himself during the episode.

For several seasons, this was my son’s favorite show. From an early age, he could start a fire using only natural wood, grass, and fibers and keep it going. And, he actually learned survival skills that he has taught me. (Did you know, for example, that hand sanitizer is so flammable that it’s a great fire starter?)

Among books, E. B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan was one of my son’s favorite, combining his interests in nature and music. For generations, The Little House on the Prairie series has been a long-time favorite of many.

What stories are good to have in the house to encourage young readers?

If you’re a teacher or group leader, what materials do you to young folks?

What do you think of using Survivorman?

Share Your Ideas …

This week, share your pictures and ideas on your favorite social media and use the hash tag we created: #OurKidsEarth

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Our Kids’ Earth: How did you get your kids outside?

Earth Day April 22 with planet from spaceThis week is Earth Week, so I want to ask: How are we doing teaching the next generation to care for the earth?

As it turns out, our kids have what Richard Louv calls a “nature-deficit disorder”—increasingly disconnected from the natural world. There’s a big problem even getting kids outdoors. Oh, they care about the earth in some abstract way, but actually getting them outdoors? That’s the first challenge!

There’s a lot of evidence to support the nature-deficit disorder argument. A Nature Conservancy survey found that 88% of American youth spend time online every day—far more than the 58% who say they do homework or study every day. Yet far fewer do anything outdoors, like hiking, fishing, or even visiting a park. But when youth have a meaningful experience outdoors, they are more likely to value nature and feel empowered to improve the environment.


Here’s how my wife and I made the outdoors a part of our family life. It began when our son was just five years old and we felt we needed more adventure in our lives. Sailing had been a passion that we put on hold during his infancy and first years. We made a conscious decision to purchase a used sailboat and set sail on the Great Lakes every summer. A part of the decision was more than adventure—we saw, even at his tender age, that he was easily hooked on electronics. Sailing in wilderness waters, anchoring without another boat in sight, fishing, hiking, swimming, camp fires—all became a part of our lives.

And, we’ve had a few harrowing adventures, too! One I recounted on OurValues.org—a time when we were stranded in the Canadian wilderness and a stranger came to our rescue.


This week, share your pictures and ideas on your favorite social media and use the hash tag we created: #OurKidsEarth

How do you (or did you) get your kids outdoors?
What ideas work for you?
What do your kids love about being outdoors that could help other parents?

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The Idea of America: Do you have a “democratic mind”?


CLICK this Colonial Williamsburg graphic to learn more about the group’s educational program.

What’s a democratic mind?

It’s not an allegiance to a particular political party. It’s “the ability to hold, concurrently, two seemingly contradictory ideals and see both as valuable and essential,” write the authors of The Idea of America (IOA). Do you agree?

The contradictory ideals are the value tension we’ve considered all week. After introducing The Colonial Williamsburg Idea of America project, we considered law vs. ethics, freedom vs. equality, and common wealth vs. private wealth. Today, we conclude with the fourth tension—unity vs. diversity—and update you on plans to bring The Idea of America to thousands of Americans across the country.

Unity is the shared sense that we are one nation.

Diversity is the celebration of all our differences—“not just race and ethnicity and gender,” write the IOA authors, “but of values, beliefs, and thoughts … The quest for cultural unity is inconsistent with democracy if it does not also recognize the rich diversity of individuals.”

The tension between unity and diversity reveals itself in many ways that have been covered on OurValues.org: immigration, religious freedom, same-sex marriage, and the changing composition of the population—just to name a few.


The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is developing a program for adults based on the Idea of America project. The Foundation has a rich tradition of educational programs, many aimed at elementary, middle school, and high school students. Now, the Foundation is developed workshops for adults with the goal of over 1,000 workshops around the country. The goal is to wrestle with the value tensions—and hone the democratic mind.

Do you agree or disagree that the quest for cultural unity is inconsistent with democracy?
Which of the four value tensions is the most challenging?
Do you have a “democratic mind”?

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Idea of America: “You didn’t build that!”


CLICK the graphic to see the National Priorities Project report.

“You didn’t build that!” is a phrase from a campaign speech Obama made in his run against Mitt Romney. Taken out of context (as it was), the phrase appears to be an attack on private enterprise and private wealth. What Obama was trying to say was that private wealth depends on common wealth—and vice versa.

QUESTION: Do you recall which politician made this point much more effectively?

ANSWER: Elizabeth Warren, now the senior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, said it much better in remarks she made in 2011. Her remarks capture the tension between private wealth and common wealth:

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.”

A video of Warren’s remarks went viral. Liberals applauded her defense of progressive economics; conservatives blasted it.

The tension between private wealth versus common wealth is one of the four tensions in America society discussed in The Idea of America. As the book’s authors put it, “Just as the community is nothing without individuals, the wealth of the individual is nothing without the context of community.”

QUESTION: Do you know where your taxes go?

That’s another way to look at the relationships between private wealth and common wealth. A good chunk of the taxes you paid yesterday to Uncle Sam will be returned as common wealth—investments in transportation, housing, energy and environment, science, and so on. The single biggest chunk—27 cents of your tax dollar—goes for military expenses, according to National Priorities, followed by Medicare and health (26.5 cents).

When you first heard “You didn’t build that!” what was your reaction?
Should the government raise taxes on private wealth to fund more common wealth?

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