April 22 is Earth Day, and perhaps now, more than ever, the healing and sustaining power of nature has become apparent to all of us who share our planet.
If any new ways of being can emerge from the challenging situation we are all facing, perhaps one of them will be to re-write Wendell Berry’s words so we adults again provide children daily opportunities to grow up learning from nature.
In the book Growing With Nature: Supporting Whole Child Learning in Outdoor Classrooms, educators in a variety of settings and geographical locations tell stories about the powerful learning experiences children have as they explore nature’s loose parts and seasons and cycles of life. Here’s one story provided by a teacher at Five Towns Early Learning Center, Inwood, NY:
“During the summer we had a whole program at our school based on nature, specifically insects. They were everywhere - spiders and beetles and earthworms - and the children were incredibly curious about them. They were thinking about these creatures as more than just ‘different from me.’ They were also thinking about them as valuable, as important enough to be taken care of. You know, we would see children take an ant from the classroom and gently take it outside. Respect for life, in any size that it comes in, is for me a very important thing.”
And from the book, Heart-Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature:
“Perhaps we are sometimes afraid to allow children to ponder the weighty questions of life because it will mean we have to deal with them as well. How do we face the fact that death is part of life? How do we learn to come to terms with our own mortality? How do we reconcile the touching beauty and gentleness of the natural world with what sometimes seems like nature’s heartless cruelty? These are not easy questions, but they are ones worth asking. One of the gifts nature gives to all of us is the reassurance that a new day will always dawn...without fail. No matter how dark the night before, the sun will always rise...
When we stop to really let ourselves ponder the reality of these words, we are reminded that we, too, have been given the ability to always persevere. We have the ability to find the lesson - the gift - in every situation, no matter how difficult. It may take awhile to discover, but the gift is always there. That’s a lesson I believe we might want to make part of our children’s ‘core curriculum’ - and our own.”
How will we all find new, innovative ways of celebrating Earth Day this year?
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Heart-Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature offers readers ways to use connections with nature to find strength and inspiration for their personal journeys so they can bring their best selves to their work with children.
Growing with Nature - Supporting Whole-Child Learning in Outdoor Classrooms is full of helpful ideas and insights from people enjoying Certified Nature Explore Classrooms throughout the country. Engaging stories and photographs illustrate ways to help infants and toddlers, pre-schoolers, and elementary students discover the wonders of nature and strengthen their foundational learning skills.
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