Information: NATURE AND ENVIRONMENT

Nature and Environment Information Troop Meetings Main Event

Related Advancement and Awards

  • Nature-related merit badges, including Bird Study, Environmental Science, Fish and Wildlife Management, Fishing, Fly-Fishing, Forestry, Geology, Insect Study, Mammal Study, Nature, Plant Science, Reptile and Amphibian Study, Soil and Water Conservation, and Sustainability
  • Nature-related requirements for Tenderfoot,
    Second Class, and First Class
  • World Conservation Award
  • Conservation Good Turn Award
  • William T. Hornaday Awards

Exploring Nature and the Environment – People have always been curious about the natural world, studying it in order to survive. Early humans learned which plants were good to eat and which ones made them sick. They learned the habits of animals they hunted for food and learned how to avoid those animals that preyed upon humans.

The natural development of a living thing over time is its natural history. People who study natural history are naturalists. Because many people over time have studied nature closely, much is known
today about the natural history of plants and animals. Today, many people observe plants and animals in the wild as a hobby. Some go hiking to find rare wildflowers. Others keep binoculars and field guides near a window so they can identify the birds that visit backyard bird feeders.

Plants and animals, however, do not live alone in the environment. They interact with one another and with the nonliving parts of their environment. A living thing’s environment is made up of all of the living and nonliving materials around it, including plants, animals, air, soil, heat, light, food, water, and anything else that plays any role in its life. Living things depend upon the materials found in their environment to survive. Anything that disturbs the environment may affect the living things found there.

Animals, Plants, and Birds Every living thing—from plants and animals to birds and fungi—supports a healthy, balanced environment. Without one element of that balance, the others could not exist. Without the oxygen produced by plants, humans would not exist. Without animals consuming plants, forests and marshland would become overgrown and choke out species. The delicate balance that exists on Earth is dependent on all species doing their part in the circle of life.

Birds – Birds provide many benefits to humans and the environment. Birds such as hummingbirds and warblers aid in pollination, while barn owls and hawks help control rodent populations. In certain areas, birds consume enough insects to allow farmers to cut down on the pesticides used in their fields.

Additionally, bird populations and their migratory patterns can be indicators of a quality environment or of bigger problems on the horizon. Each year, the National Audubon Society conducts a Christmas Bird Count using information gathered by thousands of amateur birders. After more than 100 years, the data collected during the Christmas Bird Count has informed hundreds of research studies and has helped guide important conservation work.

Animals – Millions of different species of animals inhabit Earth, with some 10,000 new species being discovered each year. Highly advanced life-forms such as apes and dolphins interact with minuscule invertebrates not even visible to the human eye. Scientists organize these creatures into nine major (and numerous minor) phyla—a type of taxonomic group—of the animal kingdom.

Many Scouts and their families have pets, which are domesticated animals that are kept as companions. Some animals, such as horses and oxen, supported early farming and are still widely used today. While certain animals are raised as a major food source, animal welfare groups are increasingly promoting humane treatment of animals raised for food.

Each species of animal that inhabits Earth has a need for a clean, healthy environment. As Scouts, it is our duty to respect nature and wild animals when we venture into the backwoods of our hometowns.

PlantsPlants – Plants play a major role in supporting all other lifeforms. All plants and animals need energy to keep them alive. Most plants absorb energy from sunlight, which they use to convert carbon dioxide, water, and minerals from the soil into plant food. Chlorophyll, a chemical compound that makes most plants appear green to the human eye, uses the sun’s energy to convert water and carbon dioxide into simple sugars called carbohydrates. This chemical process, called photosynthesis, also returns oxygen to the atmosphere. In the field of ecology, plants are called producers because they manufacture the food that supports consumers and decomposers in all ecosystems through intertwined food webs. This process produces the oxygen we breathe and ties up carbon from Earth’s atmosphere in plant fibers, thus helping to protect us from climate change.

As pristine wilderness and green space continue to shrink to support Earth’s booming population, plant science is becoming more and more important. Scientists have learned to graft and create hybrid species that can produce more fruit or use less water. Being able to grow more food with less water is vital in drought-stricken areas. Hybrids that produce heartier plants can require fewer pesticides; this keeps the air, soil, and water cleaner, thus reducing human impact on the environment.

CircleCircle of Life – Imagine what life would be like without plants and animals. Every living thing on Earth depends on something else to survive, with each organism playing a role in the global food chain and serving as a link to keeping our environment healthy. As we look at life on Earth, we must be attentive to the impact humans can have on our environment. Delicate ecosystems that have existed for millions of years are in jeopardy because of the actions of humans. We are one small part of nature that must respect every other part and work to support and continue the circle of life for future generations.

BSA Environment

Boy Scouts and the Environment – In the early 1900s, as the conservation movement grew, two separate organizations for boys that focused on nature and the environment were founded. In 1902, the Woodcraft Indians was started in Connecticut by the naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton to preserve the wilderness knowledge of American Indians. As one of the foremost naturalists of his time, Seton spoke before the U.S. Congress in 1904 in support of legislation written by William T. Hornaday to protect migratory birds.

About the same time, Daniel Carter Beard, a former surveyor and engineer who became an author and illustrator, wrote a book titled The American Boy’s Handy Book. In 1905, Beard founded a club called Sons of Daniel Boone to teach boys about nature, conservation, and outdoorsmanship.

On February 8, 1910, Seton and Beard merged their separate boys’ clubs into the Boy Scouts of America. Publisher William D. Boyce founded this new organization. From its beginnings, the Boy Scouts of America had a strong foundation of woodcraft, nature study, and conservation. Many activities in Scouting come from activities of American Indians. Many of the principles that Scouts uphold come from the conservation ethics of Seton and Beard. The BSA has taught more than 45 million young environmentalists throughout its history. Currently, with more than 2 million active members, the BSA continues to train American youth in principles  of conservation and environmental science.

Resources and References

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Nature and Environment Information Troop Meetings Main Event

For Adult and Youth Boy Scout Leaders