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Exploring Plants, Insects, and Animals: Opportunities for Cultivating Empathy in Children

by Paul Belz
May/June 2012
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Article Link: https://www.childcareexchange.com/article/exploring-plants-insects-and-animals-opportunities-for-cultivating-empathy-in-children/5020567/

Imagine what a child can learn by slithering across the ground like a worm or snail! Children learn many things from their connections with beautiful living things such as flowers and rabbits. Many adults are surprised when young scientists identify with 'yucky' animals and plants. A child who connects with creatures ranging from the cuddly to the unfamiliar can become a citizen who loves and protects our amazing planet and all living things.

Chickens and Rabbits

While nature enthralls children, many need help learning how to relate to ­animals and plants. A friend recently told me how she rescued a millipede from a group of excited three- and four-year-old students who wanted to poke it with sticks. I've convinced many ­preschoolers that they can enjoy flowers without picking them and that it's more fun to let ladybugs fly away than to keep them as pets. Teachers who love the earth find many strategies for ­sharing this enthusiasm and respect for animals and plants with students.

A garden is one setting where children can learn to empathize with animals and plants. Consider my visit to the gardens at the Lake School, a developmental preschool in Oakland, California's Lake Merritt district.

A boy pushes ...

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