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Environmental Kinship
November 16, 2023
Stories are among our most potent tools for restoring the land as well as our relationship to land. We need to unearth the old stories that live in a place and begin to create new ones, for we are storymakers, not just storytellers.
-Robin Wall Kimmerer, Botanist and Author

“Kinship is rooted in a deep kind of knowing that includes, but goes beyond, cognitive understanding,” states the Environmental Kinship Guide. “Humans, like other living things, are social beings. We live in relationship to others, not just with other humans, but with the entire natural world. Our evolutionary roots are in nature. This rootedness is an essential part of our physical reality, but it’s also part of our emotional, psychological, and spiritual reality. We are ecological beings. Kinship recognizes this reality as being significant for all human beings.”

The free Environmental Kinship Guide, authored by Fox, Gessler, Higgins, Meade, Warden and Williams Ridge, offers a framework for focusing on kinship as children learn and grow in nature, with nature, about nature, and for nature. It includes a variety of examples gathered from early childhood programs and experiences around the world.

All children (and adults) deserve time and access to fully immerse themselves in nature, but this doesn’t always happen. Preliminary research from Julie Ernst and David Sobel offers good news from their 2023 study comparing the cognitive and social emotional growth among children in fully outdoor preschools, those with some nature-based practices, and more conventional programs:

If you are among those “for whom fully embracing the nature preschool movement or full incorporation of nature-based practices and settings, is not desired and/or has not been feasible,” Ernst and Sobel have concluded, “not only does the blended approach to incorporating nature-based practices appear to be effective, but also quite accessible” (Ernst, Sobel, & Neil, 2022).

Are you at the NAEYC annual conference this week? Come visit Exchange Press and Nature Explore in Booth 1517 and join Heather Fox, Kirsten Haugen and LaRinda Hall on Saturday at 11 am for a session exploring community building through environmental kinship!


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