by Dexter Lane, Nature Explore Consultant
In a world where toddlers are beginning to play games on their parents’ smart phones, early learning in nature is not an option, but a necessity. Many of us who are involved with Nature Explore Outdoor Classrooms feel this way, but what can we do about it?
Think about this, when you’ve experienced children actively engaged with nature in an outdoor classroom you’re like Steve Jobs. You know something that if enough other people knew, or if it got big enough, it could change the world. In this case the world of education.
When children can practice writing numbers in soft earth; learn counting with stones or pinecones, follow ants back to their home or find worms in the earth; build a fort out of tree branches—thinking and using trial-and-error to fit them together; where they can make art with materials from nature; they are in self-directed play in an outdoor classroom.
This is learning that truly sinks-in; learning that touches many domains, as the deepest learning often does. This is play where children share their discoveries with each other and with their teachers. This is children owning their learning.
Early in his career, Steve Jobs knew he could change the world if he could get a great marketer. He spent weeks trying to lure John Skulley, Pepsi Cola’s greatest marketer (and PepsiCo’s President at the time), to jump to Apple Computers, a young and untested company. Skulley liked Jobs, but wouldn’t budge. At the end of their last meeting Jobs said, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want to change the world?” Skulley couldn’t live with himself after hearing that, and jumped to Apple.
How many of us cringe when we think of a teacher as a traffic cop, managing behavior on the playground; when they could be a teacher as an inspirer, navigating learning outdoors? How many of us cringe when we see young children hesitant to play outside? What can we do with these feelings?
Steve Jobs changed the world of mobile communication, internet browsing, music and personal computing. He did it by living his passion. While some may think it is impractical for most of us to “live our passion” for learning in nature, we can all put more nature into our lives and into our conversations. Every time we spread the word a seed is planted.
Do you want to spend the rest of your life seeing toddlers playing games on their parents’ smart phones, or do you want to change the world?
Spread your word and passion with parents, teachers and friends; thus planting seeds that will grow the next generation of environmental stewards. What words do you use to describe the importance of connecting children with nature?