Nature teaches empathy, compassion, and connection

Over the last several decades, people have become increasingly distanced from the sources of their most basic necessities, everything from water to food to clothing to the energy that powers their homes. With this disconnection comes disengagement, a dwindling sense of responsibility, of community. Engaging as a family with nature can make lasting impressions on a child in terms of where she or he comes from and how it’s connected to the rest of the world. One of the simplest ways to teach this is through the simple concept of one’s “watershed address.”
As a family, study the contours of the land around your house, your neighborhood, your streets. When it rains, where does the water go? Into what lakes, what rivers? Where does it go from there? Everyone in the world has a watershed address. Our water comes from somewhere and our wastewater goes somewhere. There’s an upstream and a downstream.
Find your watershed address down to the closest creek or river; look at Google Earth to help find the names, and plot the course all the way out to the ocean. How many other towns are above yours, or downstream?
Build a model outside in the dirt, have your kids carve the riverbeds. Let them feel it with their hands.

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