Nature and Learning

When I picked up my oldest from school last week some younger children were out digging into nature planting something green and leafy into little pots.  A small plot of earth nearby sprouted little rows of greens, and hills marked with little sticks held promise for the future season.  My mind wandered to a time when the art teacher where I worked combined art with gardening, and engaged the children in creating a three sisters garden and to learn about concepts like change, and growth.  I was reminded how excited children become about growing things, and digging into the dirt.  The sweetest thing about this  experience was seeing the children who lived in apartments with no back yards or plot of earth to call their own to connect with the earth and enjoy the digging, planting, watering and waiting. 

In this rural area where I now reside many schools, families and neighbors have gardens from tiny to grand.  I have pictures of my oldest son pushing a dump truck through the freshly tilled soil of our own little garden.  In my mind are more snapshots,  my middle son balancing a bucket of water, arm outstretched so as not to tip and spill, my little girl watching for worms and plucking them out of the earth where she crouches baretoed to study them closely.  I have read about the "Back to the Land" movement during the early 70's, back when I was a child and my own family was conciously separating itself from the land.  Mom grew up picking cukes in the fields, heat from the sun beating down from above and reflecting hot waves from the earth below.  For her moving from the farm life and getting an education made sense.  A sense of nature's balance, rhythm, and bounty motivate my own little family to dig in to nature and stay a while.

Now, I wonder about today's children in this technological world that we now live in.   I ponder the possibilities of an education clearly connected to nature.  What if we could connect our teaching to nature, correlate concepts in learning to the natural world?  Certainly teachers do this already to some extent, through concepts of cycles, change and growth, and I wonder how much further we could take it?  I think of the children who struggle to sit, to listen, to organize incoming inormation in classrooms everywhere.  Then picture my son, one of the strugglers, pole in hand, feet in muck, mind and body at peace.. . fishing.  He is one with the water, fish and world.  He exhibits the universal concepts of patience, persistence, and ingenuity, toward a goal.  He is amazingly and consistently optimistic even when the unpredictability of nature means the fish aren't biting. Not a dramatic display of frustration to be had. 

It seems the more the world speeds up, the more important it is to provide our children with that connection to the earth, so that they may be better equipped to find a balance between nature and technology, persistence and patience, stress and stillness.  So they will be better able and willing to adapt to change, unpredictability, and unexpected loss.  Living connected to the land brings us quality sustenance for both our bodies and our minds.  Wholesome foods feed us.  Cool breezes fill our lungs.  Running rivers remind us to slow down.  The lapping lake says linger. Ocean tides remind us we are but a small part of a vast and vivacious world. 


Theresa said...

Amy, I think this is such an important topic. I also read The Children in the Woods, and I remember thinking about how much I had to learn before I could even teach my kids about nature and the world around us. It is such a necessary understanding that so many kids are growing up without. I hope more parents begin to notice the need for the connection between us and the earth. It can only help.

kristina said...

amen amy