Here's To The Little People, The
Children Of The Earth
Our lives can get so very busy. Even though we may say that we love the Earth, very little in our schedules or behaviors clearly indicate that. Very often, the choices we make seem to contradict what we love and believe. It will take an effort to make time to learn and to live wilderness survival, tracking or Earth awareness. It may even take a greater effort to begin to share the same with our children. But if we would just slow down and realize its importance, it will be clear that there are many good reasons to learn and to share wilderness survival, tracking and Earth awareness with the little ones in our lives.
Sharing such knowledge and skills can show our children their true connection to the Earth and give them a sense of place that is based on reality. It can teach self-awareness and lead to a strong desire for lifelong learning, a lifestyle which fosters the development of personal interests and talents. And, sharing with our children can show them that they truly do have choice and are perfectly capable individuals.
Don't wait until you are an "expert" to begin sharing with the children in your life. The most important thing you can do is to just get out into nature with them. It is not necessary to have all of the answers or to know all of the skills. As interests are recognized, you can research and plan for your children to learn. Your role as parent, teacher, counselor or adult friend is to provide opportunity to learn .... actually, you are not the teacher. The real teachers are the Earth and Life itself! Let's take a few moments to think about that.
More often than not, when learning outdoor skills and knowledge, we are merely guides. We may have many items to share but we cannot force anyone to learn. The children may choose to learn or not. It is not for us to impose what we believe or know on anyone else, especially our children. They will learn what is needed. Our role is to guide, to encourage, to offer opportunities to learn. We must be consistent, patient and aware. And it seems important to note that we are not working on the student or the child as much as we are actually working on our own self. If we offer what we have to share in an understanding and respectful way, the child will learn. Let him or her find it. Just open the way. Let things happen. You can't make anything happen anyway. Prepare as much as possible but then get out of the way. Listen and learn. The more that you share with children, the more you will learn and it becomes a wonderful, powerful circle. It becomes a way of seeing and a way of living.
Whether you are working with an individual child or with a group, here are some simple guidelines:
1. Just be yourself. Don't pretend to be someone or something you are not, Don't depend on someone else for credibility. A child is quick to recognize contrived behaviors or lessons. And it is okay to admit that you do not know or have not done something. Let's get rid of the "expert" syndrome and the "authority" syndrome that we all seem to buy into. Let's not lead our children into a life of searching for the expert or the proper authority when all of the answers they really need are right out there on the landscape and right there within their own hearts.
2. Enjoy what you are doing and believe in it or don't consider sharing it.
3. Get yourself (ego) out of the way. In other words, get things started and let it happen. You will not be able to control everything that happens even if you try. It is better to be spontaneous and flexible so as to allow the teachings to come out as the situations evolve.
4. Prepare and plan as much as possible so that you can be spontaneous and flexible. Practice skills and learn as much as your time allows. Make a plan so that you have a sense of direction but be ready to modify the plan when responding to the situation. All of your planning, learning and practice will allow you to continue in a playful, knowledgeable and skilled way.
5. Simplicity is the key. With children, you should keep explanations in simple terms and very, very short. Focus on patterns, concepts, feelings and experiences. Open up new ideas for the children. Spark their sense of wonder and magic. Encourage them to participate and to share their observations and feelings along the way. Repeat the most important things time and time again until the children seem to be familiar with them. Rather than talk about it, do it.
6. When you do it, do it exactly as you would in a real situation. Make no excuses because the children will remember what they did, not what you told them. Children are great imitators and they will repeat the skill exactly as you had them do it.
7. Keep whatever you share active and fun. Show the children that learning can be enjoyable. In fact, it seems life is for learning and enjoying and sharing. Show this to the children as you work with them. Show them with your sincere behavior and enthusiasm. Talk (lecture) as little as possible and when you do talk, try to relate it to something they already know. And, trust that the children will learn much more from your example and behavior than you will ever know.
8. Always remind yourself that your role is to provide an opportunity to learn and that is all. You are planting seeds that may not sprout for a long time and whose fruit you may never see but, if you believe in what you are sharing, then it does not matter. Listen to the children. Notice their behavior, moods, interests, talents, and encourage each individual. Listen to them even closer for they have much wisdom to share with you.
9. In certain situations, it is necessary to create rules. The only guidelines or rules you need to provide for children are ones that provide for the health and safety of all and for fairness to all. All guidelines should be open to negotiation and discussion. Children need to feel included in creating their own living and learning situations. They can be far more perceptive than most adults suspect and the guidelines they create themselves will be more effective than anything you could have designed or attempted to impose anyway. So, be careful not to have any more guidelines than are necessary and to include the children in the establishment of these rules from the very beginning of your time together.
10. Always try to take a few moments afterwards to process what happened. Think about what seemed to really work for you and for the children. What would you do again or do differently. Brainstorm a list of learnings to cherish. Feel gratitude for having had the opportunity to participate and contribute as you did. And, in your heart or in your own way, honor each child and each teacher involved.
These simple guidelines are offered to provide some food for thought and a starting point for planning, Do plan to share with the children around you. Get out into the natural world as often as possible. At first, finding time or the planning may seem a real task but, the more you do it, the easier it will be. Eventually, it will be a part of your lifestyle, a part of you. Get out there and explore the natural landscape of the Earth and the landscape of your heart. Develop interests and talents into Earth knowledge and skills. Give your children understanding and encouragement. Allow them to find their own way and celebrate the kinship and hope that results.
Some Useful Books For Sharing With Children:
There are many helpful books out there. You don't have to own them. Most libraries can get them in for you to borrow. Listed here are just a few of my favorites used time and time again.
HUG A TREE by Robert Rockwell, Elizabeth Sherwood and Robert Williams.
THE EARTHSONG BOOK by Douglas Wood
THINKING LIKE A MOUNTAIN - TOWARD A COUNCIL OF ALL BEINGS by John Seed, Joanna Macy, Pat Fleming, Arne Naess
THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE by Forrest Carter
TOM BROWN'S FIELD GUIDE TO NATURE AND SURVIVAL FOR CHILDREN by Tom Brown, Jr. with Judy Brown
FIELD GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN EDIBLE WILD PLANTS by Tom Elias and Peter Dykeman
CONNECTING WITH NATURE - CREATING MOMENTS THAT LET THE EARTH TEACH by Michael Cohen
NATURE WITH CHILDREN OF ALL AGES by Edith Sisson, The Massachusetts Audubon Society
SHARING NATURE WITH CHILDREN by Joseph Cornell TEN MINUTE FIELD TRIPS by Helen Russell
ACCLIMATIZATION by Steve Van Matre (Also: ACCLIMATIZING and SUNSHIP EARTH)
HUMANIZING ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION by Clifford Knapp and Joel Goodman
KEEPERS OF THE EARTH by Michael Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
ENJOYING NATURE WITH YOUR FAMILY by Michael Chinery
TRAILS, TAILS & TIDEPOOLS IN PAILS by the Docents of Nursery Nature Walks (POB 844, Pacific Palisades, CA902720
EARTH CHILD - GAMES, STORIES, ACTIVITIES, EXPERIMENTS AND IDEAS ABOUT LIVING LIGHTLY ON
PLANET EARTH by Kathryn Sheehan and Mary Waidner
Any of the GOLDEN FIELD GUIDES on various topics.