When we take inventory of
all that needs to happen on our planet for us to make peace with each
other, with creation, with the universe, it can seem overwhelming
and can easily push us to despair. The pain for our world is evident
by the headlines in the newspaper, the frenzy at the shopping mall,
the empty food choices in the grocery store.
Where do we begin
to provide the cultural therapies needed for this massive healing process?
For those inclined
to use their energies for children and future beings, I would suggest
the following activities for becoming a nature mentor to a child. In
a world that is fast gobbling up our children with “screen”
time, and labeling this generation of children as being “digitally
native”, we must do direct intervention. In the now famous book
Last Child in the Woods Richard Louv, a father and journalist,
asks us to realize the long-term effects of children disconnected from
nature. A growing movement to get outdoors is underway. We must begin
the task of guiding our children to become native to their homes. Rachel
Carson, in her book Sense of Wonder says:
“if a child is to keep alive his [or her] inborn sense of
wonder, he [or she] needs the companionship of at least one adult who
can share it, rediscovering with him [or her] the joy, excitement and
mystery of the world we live in." (Carson, 1956, p 45.)
She gives us a solid foundation
to guide our mentorship. It isn’t hard – I assure you
that the benefits of such activity will not only bring the child into
relationship with a place, but deepen yours as well.
1. Start when they are babies.
The roar of the ocean, the mystery of the night sky, the beauty of
a flower, or butterfly, are all readily available to point out to
2. You do not have to know
the names of plants and animals to enjoy them and explore their place
in the ecosystem. You have only to notice and appreciate. Let there
be discovery on each outdoor adventure.
3. Push the boundaries –
let them stay up later than usual, let them get muddy, let them walk
in puddles, sleep outside. Eat a wild meal. Don’t let our conventions
stop us from exploring that which is sensual and pleasing to our spirits
4. Don’t let weather
stop you – being out in a storm can be exciting. Rain and fog
can bring new kinds of awareness to the forefront of attention.
5. Make up games while you
explore. Rachel’s favorite was finding little evergreen trees
and imagining what animal’s Christmas tree it was.
6. Work with feelings not
facts. In the end, that is what they will remember.
7. A sense of wonder can happen
in the city or the wilderness – indoors or outdoors. Don’t
wait until you are somewhere wild to make discoveries.
8. Use all your senses –
don’t get stuck on just sight and sound. You too will benefit
from this activity.
9. Take note of the little
things – don’t just focus on the big. You might want to
purchase a small magnifying glass.
10. Use the moon, the stars
and the seasons. Celebrate the cycles – have parties to share
gratitude for these regular events.
11. Use field guides for identification
only if this is what the next step for your discovery demands. Don’t
make it an end in itself – just introduce each species as a
friend whose name you’d like to know so you can talk to it in
a personal way next time you see it.
12. Most important,
have fun, play and relax. Give yourself a break from the heartbreaks
of the world. This is healing time for you and the child.
So you see from this list,
it is not at all hard to become a mentor for a child. Any child –
your own, your grandchild, a neighbor child, a niece or nephew. The
challenge for each of us as adults is to find a child who would enjoy
your company in the out of doors. The other challenge is to find the
time and to commit … a real commitment – on your calendar
commitment. The payback comes immediately – it is not something
you will have to wait for. The resounding ripples that will flow out
into the world and future generations will be sensed by all of creation.
What could be better therapy for a world in need of real relationship?
If you are a teacher, try the 100-Mile Diet with your class and keep
a journal for sharing! http://www.100milediet.org
Carson, Rachel. (1956). A Sense of Wonder. NY: Harper & Row Publishers.
Louv, Richard. (2005). Last
Child in the Woods. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
has held various positions with the Audubon Expedition Institute and
Lesley University of Cambridge, MA, over the past 23 years. As former
Education Director of the Institute, she designed with colleagues
and is faculty in the first Ecological Teaching and Learning M.S.degree
in the US. In its 10th year, the students and faculty have been defining
the emergent qualities and skills in what it means to be an ecologically
literate educator. Coleen has been an educator and activist for 35
years. She is Co-Founder and President of the Maine Earth Institute,
and has served on various environmental education and community boards
in New England. She has been trained in and facilitates “The
Work to Reconnect”, the work of Joanna Macy, designing practices
for the healing of our world