Make new animal friends
A boy pets Benny the turtle at The Art Farm.
Connecting with animals is a great way to experience nature first-hand. The Art Farm in the City has a petting zoo right inside its walls where kids can discover live animals every day. Hantke says, “Young children and toddlers are encouraged to ‘be gentle,’ while older kids learn how to hold and be gentle as well. This also teaches children empathy. How to care and be gentle to all living things as well as their peers. Our older students learn about the animal’s habitats, classification, how to care for animals and much more,” says Hantke. “In our Adult and Me and Toddler Classes the animals are usually introduced first with a stuffed animal which looks like the animal we’re going to meet, this way we can teach them how to pet and be gentle. Then we sing a song about the animal, and then the real live animal comes in to the classroom.” Respecting the animal is a big part of what they teach, too. “Respecting animals, nature and the environment where the animals live, and where WE live is emphasized in our classes,” say Hantke.
With so many kids focused on their gadgets, it’s easy to neglect the big world right outside their door. And while Hantke agrees that technology is essential, she argues that in the first years of a child’s life, “They really need to be in touch with nature.” Hantke and her team do tons of outreach at local schools to educate kids about “the importance of experiencing nature and different animals and ecosystems of the world.” City and suburban kids alike can all benefit from learning more about how to treat animals and their environment.
Sure your city kid can tell you the best train to take to get to Harlem from the Village, and which streets to avoid during rush hour traffic, but can they tell you when blueberries are in peak season or why chinchilla’s take dust baths or the best way to compost in your apartment? If you want to raise a city-wise kid who also loves nature, follow these helpful tips or stop by The Art Farm in the City.