Rather than teach children about nature, inspire them to connect with nature…
We believe that children will not be motivated to care for our planet unless they have a deep love, respect and connection with the earth. And how can we love nature if we have never experienced it? Therefore, our Programmes aim to help children understand how we are connected to and dependent on the natural world, as well as to inspire in them a commitment to caring for their environment.
We also believe that experiential education is a far more effective approach when it comes to the environment. Therefore, all our Programmes aim to give children opportunities to experience nature, rather than read about it in a textbook. This approach also enables children to learn practical skills which they can implement at home, such as how to grow their own food.
Hiking with Children
Rather than teach children about nature, our aim for taking children hiking is to inspire them to connect with nature. We do this through activities such as guided meditations, silent walks and interactive processes. Here are a few ideas for activities you can do yourself or with children in nature:
The ancient American Indian tradition of the Sit Spot is a simple, practical and yet profound way to nurture your relationship with the natural world around you. A Sit Spot involves choosing one place that you can go to often, to spend time alone, quietly paying attention. Choose somewhere close to your home, where you feel safe and which has some nature nearby. It could be a single tree, your back garden or a part of your favourite mountain trail. Visit your Sit Spot often and spend time alone, quietly paying attention.
Notice its exposure to the elements, the changing leaves, emerging blossoms, the length of the shadows and the surrounding plant and animal life. Listen to the sounds you can hear, listen to your breath, listen to your heart.
This is a simple, practical and yet profound way to nurture your relationship with the natural world around you.
SILENT SENSE WALK
Walking in silence and becoming more aware of our senses can open up a whole new world of discovery when spending time in nature. To make it more exciting for children, you can start the silent walk with an introduction to Elephant Ears and Owl Eyes.
Elephants have excellent hearing because of their huge ears which can pick up the faintest sounds. “Let’s pretend to have elephant ears!” Ask the children (or adults) to cup their hands behind their ears and notice the difference in the sounds they can pick up. Ask them to figure out the most distant sound they can hear, and the total number of different sounds they can identify.
Owls have amazing eyesight… they can turn their heads 360 degrees, can see very far away and have excellent peripheral vision. “Let’s see how good our owl eyes are!” Ask them to look straight ahead and hold their arms out to the side. Wiggling their fingers and slowly moving forward until they can see the movement out the corners of their eyes.
Now using your special animal senses you can begin a short silent walk. The intention is to be more alert and aware of ones surroundings, paying
attention to the detail. After 5 – 10 minutes you can pause and each person can have a chance to share one thing that they saw or heard because they were paying special attention.
HUG A TREE
Type: Sensory awareness & trust-building
Age: 12yrs and up
Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Group Size: An even number so that pairs can be formed
Ideal location: Forested area
Once you are surrounded by trees in a forested area, stop on the path to introduce the activity. Children will divide into pairs, with one of them being blindfolded. The blindfolded person is to be the tree-hugger. The tree-hugger is lead to one tree in the surrounding forested area. The tree-hugger touches the tree and tries to memorize its size, shape, location, texture, etc. The tree-hugger is then lead back to the starting point, takes his/her blindfold off and then tries to locate his/her tree. The pair will then swap with the tree-hugger now being the guide. It helps to do the blindfolded walk in silence.
After everyone has had a chance to be a tree-hugger, you can close with a discussion with the following questions:
- How did it feel to be blindfolded? How was your partner as a guide?
- What other sense could you use?
- How did it feel to hug a tree?
- How was it to try and find your tree once the blindfold had been removed?
This is part of the “Seed Pack – Resources for facilitating holistic education and working” – a free guide offered by Earthchild, to support others in their journey connecting children to themselves, others and the environment. Support our work with Earth Children from under-resourced communities by donating.