Nature walks awakens wonder and curiosity.
People are surprised when we tell them that we walk the same trail every week. "Doesn't it get boring?"
Every time we walk the trail we see something new. Something awakens our senses to wonder and prompts questions. We pull out our cameras and take pictures to post at citizen science websites. We pick up things to study and share with the others. We draw things in our nature notebooks and try to identify things that are new to us the following week. We grow curious.
Nature study lengthens the attention span.
I see the difference between children practiced in the art of nature study and beginners. Those new to walks blast through the trail. The goal is the end, not the journey. Experienced walkers find things to share with others. Today, the boys found a patent-leather beetle. One held it still for another to take a picture. Then he stroked the insect, and we all stood quietly to hear it chirp. We build attention through nature study.
It teaches us to educate ourselves.
Nature study relieves teachers of the burden of making children learn. They cannot help themselves once wonder, curiosity, and attention catch fire. They eagerly find out things for themselves. We stand aside and watch them discover amazing things on their own.
We have gotten to the point of recognizing banana spiders and orchard orbweavers (which we called "neon spiders" until we clinched the classification). Today, a boy who just turned six years old this month spotted this rather small spider above our heads, glowing in the sunlight. A new friend to name!
Nature study builds relationships.
We have walked the trail for nearly a year. Our weekly jaunts have created landmarks. The mosquito gantlet. The log where the ginormous frog sat. The railing where caterpillars and spiders hang out. The best trunks for climbing. The castles surrounded by moats. The tree that the snake climbed. Millipede alley and the frog pond. The tree that foamed.
When we have new people join us, we love sharing our finds. Here the boys are looking at God's styrofoam (the part of a water hyacinth that makes it buoyant). We build relationships with things on the trail as well as with one another.
Sometimes, we get wet and dirty!
We have walked under all weather conditions, except snow! On the coldest day, we walked (albeit rather quickly). On the wettest day (when the fringes of Tropical Storm Andrea passed through), we walked. Only vacations and illness have prevented us from walking.
When the sky isn't getting us wet, we get wet intentionally. Here our intrepid explorer waded out into the pond to pluck a water hyacinth for us. The pattern of colors on the lavender petals reminded him of a peacock feather.
Nature study brings joy.
Sometimes we cannot help but shout for joy when we do something new. This boy caught three baby frogs and exclaimed to his mother, "Look! I found three frogs!" And we all crowded around to look and take pictures.
On this one walk, we came across a new butterfly and a new spider and wondered why the swamp looks unusually bubbly and oily today.
No. Walking the same trail every week never gets boring.
A community called to offer another way to learn for students in Clarendon County