Let Nature Be Your Classroom and Guide! Why? Nature is good for us. We know intuitively that nature is restorative, healing, inspiring, and vital to our wellbeing. Healthy and happy people tend to miss less work, are more creative, productive, and therefore beneficial to the economy. We also know how easy it is to forget this knowledge and to adopt a viewpoint, which sees time spent in nature as wasted, unproductive, or “just playing around.” Thanks to the tireless work of individuals such as Richard Louv and organizations like the Children and Nature Network we are starting to remember.
Richard Louv’s landmark book, “Last Child In the Woods,” and his most recent works “The Nature Principal,” and “Vitamin N” helped launch a global conversation focused on the value of nature and free play and their connection to creating a healthy, happy, and productive society. The fruits of this movement can be seen in the rise of school garden programs, green school initiatives and in health care. Doctors are even prescribing time in nature as therapeutic treatments! Click this link to read about the connection between nature time and treating Attention Deficit Disorders.
Connections are also being made between time spent in nature “playing”and academic success. This blog titled “Want Your Kids To Get Into Harvard? Tell’Em To Go Outside!” addresses this topic in detail. If you ever get critics who argue that science is best learned in the lab, remind them of Sir Isaac Newton and his little discovery while sitting under an apple tree!
How? You don’t have to travel to Yellowstone National Park (but you should) to experience the benefits of the great outdoors. No matter if your school is in the mountains, country, suburbs or in the city, nature is everywhere. Eagles are in Staten Island , coyotes in Central Park, squirrels and pigeons are everywhere and so are plants and insects. So many amazing things happen in our environments all the time, but we miss them. We are so focused on our various screens, on books, and looking straight ahead that we are oblivious to the activity that occurs all around us in nature. Our habits might be having some dire consequences on our health. This Wall Street Journal article, The Puzzling Rise In Nearsighted Children, looks into this issue.
Programs To Help Develop Your Naturalist Abilities
To become nature smart, it is important to develop observational skills. (Being observant will also help your students with just about every subject, as well as helping them to stay safe when not in the classroom.) However, before you can teach your students how to see more in nature, you first need to develop your own observation skills and naturalist abilities. ( Did you see the frog in the picture above?)
Your Own Backyard: The best place to start is in your own backyard! Take time each and everyday to sit outside and observe your surroundings. Don’t bring your phone, books, or anything; just sit and pay attention using all of your senses. Once you are able to relax and bring your mind to the present moment, you will be amazed at what you see! Experiment with different points of view. Try lying on your stomach and just observe the earth beneath your face. Soon you will see just how much life exists in a square foot of earth, amazing!
Once you have throughly explored your yard, venture off to your nearest park and continue your observations. Getting to know your local parks might become such a joy, that you won’t feel the need to travel very far this summer, which can save you some money. You might want to put some of that money towards some great books that will deepen your appreciation for nature. (Or you could just go to the library, much cheaper)
Great Books To Deepen Your Nature Appreciation
Crow Planet, A Sand Count Almanac, The Practice of The Wild, The Spell of The Sensuous, The Tracker, What The Robin Knows, and Tracking and The Art of Seeing are some good books to start with. After reading these books and exploring your local parks you still might want more knowledge. Well, maybe you were really good at saving money this past year, partly because of all the great resources you discovered at TeacherCents (shameless plug) and have some to invest in yourself? Why not put that money towards learning from some experts? You might even get your school to pay for some of it if you can convince them it is for Professional Development.
Learn From Experts: If you are looking to enhance your training and nature skills consider learning from experts in the field. The following are some programs worth looking into: Tom Brown Jr’s Tracker School, Practical Primitive, Flying Deer Nature Center, White Pine Programs, Hawk Circle, Wilderness Awareness School, and Wild Earth. If any of those programs are too far for you, chances are there are similar programs near you. Just do a simple internet search and see what you find.
Things You’ve Never Done Before
You might get so into this new pursuit that you find yourself doing things you never dreamed of, like covering yourself with mud, walking barefoot through the woods, making animal calls, climbing trees, making things crafted from materials you found in nature, finding beauty in things you previously took for granted and much more. Your blood pressure might improve, your waistline become smaller, your body become stronger, all of these are possibilities. Heck, you might even sign up to be a contestant on Naked and Afraid! That might be a little too extreme…
Are getting excited to begin explorations and your pursuit to become more nature smart this summer? Or you might be thinking that this is all well and good, but how will you find the time to bring more nature observation and outdoor activities into your already packed classroom schedule. Don’t worry! In part 3 we will look into some easy ways to achieve this goal. Until then, happy exploring!
Thank you for reading and for sharing. We look forward to hearing your thoughts, questions, and ideas below.