Enjoying Nature-April 2004

Get in Tune with Nature

Have you ever sat on a fallen log and thought about all the things that were happening to turn that log back into soil? Or have you gone wading in a cool stream on a hot summer day and watched the water striders skimming on the surface, making shadows on the stream bottom? How do they do that? Do you remember the smell and texture of the grass; the movement; and the flickers of sunlight while rolling down a grassy hill when you were a child? Once the delight and pleasure of such experiences are remembered, it is easier for an adult to come into touch with his or her inner child.

As an educator, I have tried to stay tuned into my surroundings. This connectedness helps me keep in tune with the children I teach. Over the years, through understanding and respect, I have designed a series of safe, fun and educational experiences, which are stepping stones for children and families to make peace with their environment.

George Washington Carver once said, “There is not a day which goes by that we are not touched by some part of nature.” If we, as adults, ignore the colors, smells and cycles of nature around us, we are teaching ourselves and our children to ignore their feelings and consideration for these neighbors.

When a child looks at a field, they see an adventure; a place to run and hide or an opportunity to smell new smells and investigate new possibilities. On the other hand, an adult may turn around and destroy a field because they cannot see the beauty that the child may see in that place. Educator James Nelms once said, “One goes where no one has ever been before – to the top of the twisted tree, we stand there seeing the world as no one has ever seen it before – because no one has ever been us, trusting our own vision, clarifying it, valuing it…”

Children are the architects of their private environments. They search for a spot and know when it has been found. This place is where a child can find self. Because of time, money and self-involvement, we adults may destroy that place where the child finds “self”.

For example, we take a child to a zoo. The child is totally interested in the lions, but as adults we must see the whole place. After all, we paid for it. Ask yourself, “what is the purpose of this trip? Is it for fun, education, or just because we need to justify ourselves by saying we gave our child quality time?” The skills of looking and watching are educational. Whether looking under rocks in the yard or finding slugs preparing for winter under the fall leaves, these seemingly minor experiences are enough to teach patience and the observation skills necessary for “tuning in to learning about self and the environment”.

Here are a few things in store for you and your children once you start using all your senses to tune into nature:

What’s ugly to some people may seem beautiful to you! Your friends may hate, fear and even kill spiders, but you’ll appreciate them for the valuable role they play in nature and admire their beautiful colors and intricate webs.

You’ll become interested in every living thing, realizing that there is a balance in nature with each animal or plant depending on each other.

You will be saddened when you see a tree cut down or a beautiful marsh turned into a mall.

You’ll meet lots of people who go for walks every day and don’t see anything exciting, but enjoy walking with you because your insights turn the walk around the block into an adventure.

If your child witnesses your interest and respect for all things, you will have an unspoken impact on their value system. In colder weather, try taking a bundle-up walk or a stroll around the yard. In spring and summer, spend a day just observing and relaxing with your family and friends in the outdoors.

William Wordsworth said: “Let nature be you teacher.”

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