As lifelong learners we aspire to be expanding and growing with new knowledge, skills and understanding from our experiences. How do we learn? When we are babies and toddlers we rely on our parents and caregivers to guide and show us the fundamentals of language, movement and emotional regulating. Then we go on to school where we acquire information and abilities though structured lessons. We are taught how to socialise appropriately according to a set of agreements and are influenced by the actions of our friends. What could we learn naturally in nature?
As an experienced primary school teacher, I have been able to observe and be witness to both indoor and outdoor learning. What is the difference? How is learning naturally unique?
These are some of the developments that I have noticed naturally unfurl during our Grow Wild Walks over the past three years.
Moving in mountains
I have sometimes seen that new children who join our walks spend the first two to three times tripping and falling over rocks and sticks, slipping down pathways and struggling to do basic balancing activities. I believe that it is due to the flat, straight floors and ground that they are accustomed to. Their gross motor skills improve the more they move as their bodies naturally adapt to the needs of their environment. They show amazing resilience and radiate with pride when they realise that they are no longer falling.
In nature, Grow Wild is inspired by the environment. We practise movements that are connected to the forest, mountain and beaches that we explore. We climb over huge rocks, boulders, up trees and over fallen trunks. The children balance on large natural structures, river stones, and bridges. The walking strengthens their legs and endurance and the “mini trail running” increases their fitness levels. We incorporate Yoga postures that develop their stretching skills. This all takes place without them realising that their bodies are growing and learning naturally how to “survive in the wild”.
What is it? Ecoliteracy is “the ability to understand the natural systems that make life on earth possible. To be ecoliterate means understanding the principles of organization of ecological communities (i.e. ecosystems) and using those principles for creating sustainable human communities”.
Grow Wild believes that ecoliteracy is a critical component of learning. This learning occurs naturally during our adventures through exploration, investigation, and sharing our discoveries. We carry a few reference books and wildings voluntarily bring their own. Our Grow Wild Guides are experienced teachers with specialised skills for inquiry based learning. We guide experiences through open ended questioning, cultivating curiosity and confidence to explore the natural environment.
Each walk holds a clear intention as a center point, for example ‘Birds’. This may incorporate the relevant vocabulary, discussions about their anatomy, food, shelter and habitat. This center point would be integrated within our movements, meditations (tuning in) and art process. Each experience creates an awareness of the beauty and inter-connectedness within the natural world and the importance of preservation and care of our magnificent Earth.
Through instilling a love for nature, children will most likely protect it as an adult and appreciate its’ value.
“Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand, and manage both your own emotions and the emotions of others.”
This is certainly the most fundamental and key element of any human being.
Children today have been faced with incredible challenges in an ever-changing world. Our current Covid-19 pandemic will certainly require a grounding and nourishing environment to take us into a space of connection to others, moving in a new way and trusting that we can co-create a positive and healthy world together with nature.
How does Grow Wild nurture this essential development?
During our time in the green peaceful forests, the tranquil turquoise and blue ocean and the solid, rocky mountains, we naturally learn how to ‘tune in’ to the sounds, textures, sights and symbols. Our program is designed to give a multi-sensory experience. We walk and sit silence. At first the children are resistant to try, uncertain of the quiet.
After the experience they are often in awe of the gifts that stillness brings. This naturally allows them to tap into their own core and be considerate of others around them. Every activity that is offered is a choice, driven by a natural interest. The children form friendships and the bond grows with every adventure. In the three years since Grow Wild’s inception, there have only been a handful of conflictual moments. Nature creates a container for the children that calms their nervous systems and enables them to be grounded and present resulting in a peaceful experience.
Grow Wild’s Core Agreement: S.K.Y
As part of learning naturally, Grow Wild created a framework for our walks that all the children need to understand and agree upon before we begin our adventure into nature. Through discussions and implementation of the S.K.Y Agreements the wildings weave these actions into their walks and daily lives.
‘S’ stands for Safety by staying with the group. Safety through social distancing. Safety through wearing a mask. Satety by greeting dogs from a distance.
‘K’ represents Kindness. Kindness to each other and to nature. We can only use what nature has gifted. No picking flowers or breaking habitats.
‘Y’ is for You. YOU are important. YOU know if you are hungry or thirsty. YOU know if you need to go to the ‘bushes’. YOU know what YOU can do with regards to climbing, running and balancing. Always aim to improve but know your limit.
By following the S.K.Y Agreements the children are made responsible for their own choices.
Nature truly is our greatest teacher. We have so much more to learn and discover. So many new paths to walk and ways to move. Grow Wild hopes to see many more children benefiting from our beautiful environment. It is time to strengthen our Eco literacy to create a sustainable future. Now is the time learn tools for self-regulation and self-care. Now is the time to reconnect.