Rediscover the Marvels of Nature

A child who is allowed to fully experience
the beauty and power of nature
receives a gift for life
a gift that will deepen and grow
in meaning over all the years to come

Are you a parent who thinks of nature as something we need to teach our children, something we are meant to provide as a part of their well-rounded education, like music lessons, team sports, or art? Hubby and I have dutifully taken our children to planetariums, aquariums, educational exhibits, sea lion & whale watching, natural/living history museums, up and down small mountains and streams...we've even camped on farms/national parks for close encounters with deers, raccoons, horses, cows, goats, pigs, chickens, snakes, rodents...Yet, I've come to realize a few small, familiar places have made far deeper impressions on my children than all of the wilds and panoramic views and rain forest exhibits I could ever offer. The encounters with nature mean the most to them are those happen without any agenda at all, beyond going forth to see what's out there. My son and daughters' exuberance and curiosity carry them into an enchanted world full of wonder and possibility, into tide pools and tangled treetops, through mud puddles and into mossy clearings and secret hideouts, down into holes and up over rocks.

Not goodbye...just...until we meet again my pal, Ben! (More magical moments taken at Children Festival)

Over and over again, my children open my eyes to places and pleasures I might otherwise have missed altogether. My children and I can discover the same place over and over again, simply by taking a closer look just in my backyard. I don't need to climb mountains or sail overseas to meet nature. I need only join my children, down on my hands and knees, and watch the intimate movements of small creatures going about their businesses.

Don't lose touch with the natural world or ignore your primal hunger for earth, water, and sky. We do have time for nature. Modern society calls us away from nature's rhythms, away from the kind of observation and interaction with the natural world that can quiet a troubled mind, restore a sense of well-being, and renew our connections with all life. Children spend days inside instead, yoked to some other rhythm, bathed in artificial light, breathing recycled air, surrounded by man-made materials--concrete, glass, and plastic--in brightly colored classrooms, in structured after-school programs, and on man-made playgrounds and athletic fields that offer little in the way natural beauty. Little wonder, then, so many of us suffer from a vague sense that something important amiss from our lives or our children are growing up without a comfortable, enduring, firsthand relationship with the land. Perhaps they don't even know what they are missing, for they cannot yearn fro something they have never known themselves.

I vow to allow my children to grow up in nature. I will go along as they clamber over rocks, splash through streams, dig in the dirt, hunt for hermit crabs, follow caterpillars, count stars...I will take them out of doors and turn them loose and allow them to find sanctuary in their own special places. I will muse and wonder with them, gather stones and shells and seed pods, celebrate the seasons, and embrace all kinds of weather.

THANK YOU, my dear children, for offering me an opportunity to rediscover the marvels of nature. I don't need any special knowledge, any equipment, or even much of a plan. I don't need to be a naturalist or a teacher. I don't need to identify a single bird or flower or constellation. All I need is a willingness to go, to look, and to drink in the mystery and beauty of the world before my eyes. I don't need to have more knowledge to impart, a better foundation in the earth sciences so I could explain the world to my children--instead--of simply experiencing it with them. Certainly our outings gave rise to more questions than answers. But, as we watched and wondered together, I came to suspect our shared experience was probably more valuable to my children than any education I could provide. In time, they will acquire knowledge, too--but first they need the time and space to develop an emotional connection with the land, forging their own relationships with plants and animals, earth, and sky.

When I open to nature, when I explore the world around me with my feelings and emotions rather than my limited intellects, I engage all my senses. For now, at least, I try to resist the impulse to explain too much, for all those words can keep me from making deeper observations. I even quell the voice that wants to say Don't fall or You'll get soaked or Come in out of the cold Experience includes extremes and children need to feel them, need to test their own limits. The world, seen through the eyes of a child, is a delicious, irresistible place. For the moment, anyway, I'm the lucky adult companion of my three angels, my own sense of wonder renewed each time I step out the door and look around me.

Those who will make a real difference in our world--those who will grow up with the confidence and the imagination to help save the earth--will be those who know it well and love it deeply.


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True learning-learning that is permanent and useful,that leads to intelligent action and further learning, can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.
John Holt
Real heroes are men who fall, fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they stayed true to their ideals, beliefs and commitments.
Actor Kevin Costner

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