Every morning a voice over the loud speaker in the wall reminds us to respect the traditional land on which we are working. We’re reminded to get in touch with the earth, and to connect with nature. This background static soundtrack to our day never actually unites with the practice of our grind.
Step by step through colourless halls, we trudge through our schedules like rats seeking exits. Laughter is too loud, so it’s hushed. Voices are too expressive, so they are silenced. Humanity is squelched into rust hued lockers, and brightly textured backpacks. Bodies shuffle in a sea of movement, but no one has any personal space.
Forget about dancing down the hall because conformity is the only thing celebrated until the bell rings, the doors open, and for a scant few minutes, fresh air seeps into our lungs, and we can breathe.
Even in the vastness of outside, movements, and words are controlled, but at least there is SPACE, and life. Hawk eyes can only see so much, so many scamper out of sight to participate in the forbidden fruits of play, and free speech.
“SNOW STAYS ON THE GROUND!”
I’m guilty of shouting it at top volume too. I have to comply lest a child throws an ice ball in someone’s face. But how I wonder, is all of this control allowing children to actually connect with the land, and with nature?
In Art class, everything is structured, even if it doesn’t appear to be. We can’t truly walk around and collect specimens, so they are brought in, controlled, organized. Even when we step out of the hallowed halls and play hide-and-seek with the treasure trove of loose parts, and creative items found in nature, we have to be mindful of not tracking dirt into the building. Adding to that, many of the projects that we create with natural materials are simply wasteful, rather than respectful. Gluing leaves onto paper sure seems like fun, but when they begin to decompose, and crumble off, everything ends up in the landfill.
Why do we have to CAPTURE nature? Can’t we allow children to create with found objects, and then return them to where they belong? Do they have to draw the tree exactly how they see it, or can they enjoy sitting under it to feel the coolness of the shade?
I don’t know. I guess connecting with nature means something different to each of us. I love walking in the woods. I love getting incredibly muddy, but I don’t enjoy digging in dirt and finding bugs. I love swimming in the ocean, but every time I step into the local river to cool off on a muggy day, I worry about bacteria.
I guess it doesn’t matter HOW one connects with nature, as long as it’s respectful. I do however feel that we are pretty much failing many of our children by not allowing them more time to truly get in touch with the land, and find what makes them feel grounded.
Genuine opportunities like gardening, or learning how to grow wildflowers to attract bees, and butterflies are great starting points. Having chick eggs in a classroom incubator though, not so much. How are we teaching children to respect nature if we are treating animals like science experiments? How are we teaching children love, empathy, and compassion if they are allowed to care for these animals only to have them sent off to be slaughtered later? Alas, I digress again…I think that’s my most well employed hobby, digressing while thinking, and writing!
I think my rambling point is that we need to take life outside a bit more. Maybe we need to let children be more “free-range” time outside? What if we allowed children the time they need to run, move, and get dirty BEFORE we try to fill their time with stuff that they resent? Imagine giving space, and time in order to create the perfect mindset for intellectual learning…wouldn’t that be ideal?