Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The school holidays - time for some real learning ( or is the virtual world winning over the real? )

I caught an interview on National Radio  a few days ago - Kim Hill was interviewing Richard Louv author of 'The Last Child in the Woods'.  After listening I ordered his latest book and searched my copy of his earlier work.

I was so  impressed last time to wrote a blog based on Richard's thoughts.

In the interview Richard was talking about the worry that children in America no longer explore their immediate natural environments as  children did in the 50s and 60s. Today young people all too often experience the world through  electronic media. Something, he believes, is being lost in the process. Children , and in turn adults, are in danger of losing connection with their natural environment.

Richard believes, as do I ,that it is important to help young children connect with the real world. The trouble is parents often do not have the knowledge or confidence to take their children into natural areas and added to this is the growing fear of parents of the danger of young children playing without supervision outside.

The latter is hard to overcome but there are many thing parents can do to help their children become more aware of the natural world

The first thing to get over is the worry about not knowing much about names of plants and animals.

The best advice is to learn alongside their children  deliberately developing awareness and fascination through their  senses. Many child development  experts believe that this is the best way not only to build on  their innate curiosity and sense of wonder but also to develop  their language and vocabulary   This is far more valuable than letting young children amuse themselves with electronic media - it is all too common to find young people locked in their room exploring the virtual world - and who knows what they are exploring!

I have to admit that I have had a life long interest in natural history. My first job in education was as a Nature Study specialist teacher! As a teacher I believed strongly in making full use of the immediate environment  in the classroom and now worry that in classrooms today this is no longer a feature. All
8 year old explore bush through art
to often studies undertaken are all too often about saving whales,  or pollution, or climate change. The message being laid on the young is that their role is to save the world - Louv  calls this 'ecophobia'. Louv believes, as do I, that the way to encourage the young to protect the environment is to help them appreciate  nature - students who do so will  , in the future, protect hat they have learnt to love.

Anyway back to  helping students experience the natural world.

Just simply enjoy the experience of noticing things. Encourage a slow reflective approach to exploring. - as if you are the first explorers - totally unaware of any names or knowledge.
Nature study -age 8

Encourage your fellow explorers to make use of their senses - without overdoing it. Look  for colours and shapes and what they might remind you of..Take photos of interesting things with your 'smart' phones and maybe use these to get children to write their thought back at home or even turn them into imaginative drawings. If children want to know names of things show photos to a local expert.

Look for patterns - many plants have mathematical ideas to discover - spirals etc.

Take time to feel textures and in same cases smells. Now and then shut eyes and listen to sounds from nearby or far  away.

It is a good idea to change perspective. Get children to climb a tree, or lie on their backs to watch clouds or tree canopies.  One good activities is to let children find a place by themselves to 'go solo' for a few minutes and to let their mind's wander.

If children want names get them to invent names to suit - this is how common names were originally given. Later use experts or Google them  to research  and find correct names. Even Latin names often describe features of a plant or animal

Collect up good questions to think about - children will have their own theories to explain things. Later check them out using Google etc

Another idea is to play a game of making poems. Pick an object and ask children to provide a thought - maybe what it makes them think of. Scribe out several thoughts into three line poems - simple haiku poems. Parents with expertise could make them into simple pieces of music..

As parental confidence grows let children explore area by themselves - at first close to home and further afield as they grow older.. Good advice is to apply 'benign neglect'.
Amazing spider web

There are lots of places to explore with your children - or for them to explore by themselves.

Rocky pools and sand dunes.

Bush walks and with confidence small places of bush.

Parks and flower gardens.

And easiest of all  the pants and animals in your own garden.

A favourite of mine is to explore the wild plants growing in waste areas.

Through such experiences not only will children learn to love nature, and learn names and ecological connections  they will develop their imaginations and best of  all possibly develop life long interests or even a career.  Louv writes that  we are currently in the process of developing children with a 'nature deficit disorder'.

The real world is a far richer experience than the virtual - one that involves physical activity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Such good advice - thank you.