This year marks 50 years since the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm. This is widely seen as the first international meeting that was held on the need for collective protection of the environment and a meeting which encouraged the formation of environmental ministries and agencies around the world. This conference also established World Environment Day (led by UNEP and occurring on the 5th June each year), which is an event that has grown to have the largest global environmental outreach, with millions of people across the world engaging to protect the planet.

The themes for World Environment Day have varied year on year, ranging from plantation of trees in 1986, global warming in 1989 and plastic pollution in 2018. However, this year’s theme ‘Only One Earth’, is a re-energisation of the theme of the very first World Environment Day back in 1972. It is clear that this core message about our environment still rings true even fifty years later, as today we are using the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to maintain our current way of life – a luxury that we know we simply cannot afford.

The concept of ‘Only One Earth’ focuses on living sustainably in harmony with nature by bringing transformative changes through policies and our choices, towards cleaner and greener lifestyles (more on this: Sweden to host World Environment Day 2022 ( message implies a sense of responsibility that we as humans must have towards the nature around us and we know that this responsibility holds a strong sense of global urgency. As an organisation with an embedded nature pedagogy, Acorn understands the importance of deeply connecting the future generation, from as early as possible, to the natural environment.

But how do we practically flourish an environmental ethic of care within young children?

1. Providing all children with regular access to Forest School

Our Forest School sessions are rich in frequent and regular outdoor learning opportunities that develop a relationship between children and the natural world. They create curiosity and wonder towards aspects of nature that we as adults can often simply walk by and miss. Children are exposed to opportunities that allow them to grow into experts in the nature around them – such as knowing the different types of fauna and flora, types of insects and their role in our world, experiencing and appreciating all types of weather, becoming inspired to work together with nature to have fun (i.e. buildings dens and collating natural resources for arts and craft), and much more!

2. Bringing the outdoors in

Whilst the time children spend outdoors is maximised at all our nurseries, through regular walks and free-flow access to the garden areas and outdoors spaces throughout the day, all of our nurseries also aim to bring the outdoors in to further strengthen children’s felt connection to the natural environment around us. Plus, the natural (often wooden rather than plastic) resources that provide extensive sensory exploration and imaginary play for children, also are biodegradable and so reduces our contribution to landfill.


3. Practicing an ethic of care towards wildlife

The children in our nurseries are exposed to a lot of inspiration towards ways to protect the wildlife that is around us. This includes activities such as making bird feeders and setting up a ‘helping hand’ of natural fibres, moss and wool for the birds who are creating their nests, learning which flowers cannot be picked and the reasons for that, observing insects through bug hotels, learning about the importance of worms through wormeries and learning the impacts of litter through litter picking walks.

4. Gardening 

As a result of increased time spent outdoors, children have an abundance of opportunity to experience the growth process of plants and their many different purposes in our world. By not only being able to see the growth journey of different plants, herbs and trees, but also be an active participant in ensuring this growth happens (the majority of our nurseries have ‘grow your own’ allotment patches), children begin to develop a strong sense of responsibility and a caring attitude.

5. Reducing waste

Our nurseries are very mindful towards waste and children are inspired to get involved in practises that reduce the amount of waste we generate. For example, children come along to trips to a scrap shop where loose parts can be transformed into parts for play and children go on walks to local refill markets and become exposed to the idea that plastic packaging in our supermarkets is not all that necessary. They are exposed to a different possibility, allowing them to raise environmentally important questions and to make environmentally mindful choices.

These are only a few ways but it is a start in how we can ensure that the next generation develops a stronger sense of care towards the environment than the previous generation, and the knowledge tools to live sustainably in harmony with nature.
Perhaps you can take away some of these ideas or perhaps you would like to share your own ideas – we would love to hear about them! Lets all encourage each other to keep learning and growing so that we can celebrate, protect and restore our planet!