So I'm sitting here looking at six full pages of notes from my first day at the 12th annual Design Institute sponsored by the Natural Learning Initiative and trying to wrap my mind around why we did to come to a conference to get children back in nature.
How did this happen? Why do we need this? Why do our children need this? Why is it so important for us, our children, and our future? No I'm being serious...this is seriously important for our future.
I met other nature minded people who attended this conference for the pure fact that we have to "get back in the woods" or our future will be very bleak. Ok so here's the facts...who taught our children to think of this place that is full of experiments, observations, and experiences as a mucky, nasty, bug and critter infected area that should be off limits to children and especially why they need it for learning?
You see, children are not born with these words in their vocabulary and especially how they describe their environment around them. Try this experiment: Take your children outside and have them lay on their backs so they have their backs in the grass and their eyes to the sky and clouds. Have them describe what they feel, what they see, what they hear, and how it makes them feel. Watch out because your mind will be blown.
If you have a child that is younger in age (2 to 5 years), they will tell you all about the world around them. (If it's an infant or toddler, most of them will try to move around and explore the area.) They will tell you what they see, hear, feel, etc. without the usage of many negative ideas.
If you have a child that is older than 5 years and in school, they will tell you why they can't lay down, what might bit or hurt them, and what is going to go wrong. Why does this happen and who told them about all this negativity? The media, the older people in their lives, their school, and anywhere besides outdoors. When a child engages outdoors, they find their own therapy space.
So how does an adult introduce a child to these interesting idea of being outside...STEP OUT YOUR DOOR and find some green space. In my conference, we were allowed to find our own therapy in the mud. YES MUD!!!! Look what happens when you give mud to adults who have been deprived of it for too long,,,well you get mud throwing, mud art made from mud, mud walking, and mud body painting. Yes, it was messy but we were the happiest people at the whole conference after our class.
So how do you bring something that wonderful and show it to kids who may not have that experience any other time....you take them to the woods. Our class visited the natural class located at Partners and we took nothing from the class or anything that could stimulate them in any way. So what did they do or learn? Well let's take a look....
You let them explore and show you the items that they find and what they think they came from or how they could use them. Lots of leaves and sticks and talking about where it comes from and why they are falling were many of the discussions that we heard while exploring.
The kids then used the path beams not for walking in between but on top of and trying to balance themselves. They then discovered that one of the beams were rotten and they started talking about what things rot and why they rot. All introduced by a child with no adult input just adults asking questions.
When was the last time that you ran in a meadow??? For some of these kids, they didn't know what a meadow was and the only time that they had seen it was on "My Little Pony" shows (bad technology, bad). So now they became the ponies, then bumble bes, then snowmen then we turned to something else's...
When was the last time that you did a flip...ok so that is pushing it for adults but have you ever showed your children how to do it? For some of kids, they had never experienced it and had to have some help with starting to learn this task. After some of us got stuck in our flip, we learned how to walk like a wheelbarrow with help from friends of course. All of this was child friendly and guess what they were so in contact with nature that they never saw the negative .
I'm not saying just let your child run wild through the woods but if you knew that it was a safe place and that children could explore the limits at their own risk...would you let them? We are the ones with the negative agenda with the nature around us but for kids, they learn how manipulate the natural setting to be productive, safe and "explorable" in their minds. What they have to expereince teaches them how to set their own limits and make safe choices....cough cough...they can make these choices and learn while doing it. No adult to stop the play because they know the limits of themselves. LET THEM OUTSIDE and see what happens!!!!! You may even get some nature stuck in your head as well as your child's!!!!