Your Encounters with Sharing Nature with Children

Greg Traymar from the Sharing Nature Foundation is our moderator from August 7-27. He will discuss environmental education through his experience teaching "Flow Learning" which is inspired by Joseph Cornell's book Sharing Nature with Children.

Years ago, during an Outward Bound trip in Utah’s Desolation Canyon, Greg Traymar was resting comfortably on the sandy banks of the Green River, enjoying the magnificent canyon scenery, when he was overtaken by a profound peace and calmness. From this life-changing experience, he realized that his life’s work would be helping others find the same inner renewal and love for nature. [from Sharing Nature Worldwide website]

In 1979 a “worldwide revolution in nature education” was launched with Joseph Cornell’s book, Sharing Nature with Children. An instant classic, this book has been translated into 20 languages and is used in every part of the globe. With the writing of this book, Joseph wanted to give others more than “mere exposure” to nature, but rather, profoundly moving experiences.
Each of the activities in this book are windows through which others can see nature in fresh and creative ways. If you connect with nature through more of a scientific bend, you might enjoy “Bat and Moth” where you learn the concepts of Predator-Prey relationships through play. If you are an artist, you might enjoy “Recipe for a Forest” where you draw your own dream forest, complete with all the ingredients needed to allow it to thrive.
The classic activity that most people associate with Sharing Nature is “Meet a Tree.” With a partner, you are guided with a blindfold to a nearby tree and explore it using all of your senses (except for sight of course!). You feel the bark….is it smooth or rough? Can you wrap your arms around the tree? Is there any moss on the tree? How tall is the tree? Are you able to reach its highest branches? Once you’ve experienced your tree, your partner leads you back, takes off your blindfold and then you must find your tree. There have been children who have come back several years later to a location and were able to find their exact tree!
Nature touches each one of us deeply. Whether it is the wind blowing gently over our skin or a sunset that leaves us breathless, there is a power in nature that can transform our lives. Unfortunately, these moments are too few and far between for people. How often when we are in nature, our minds are on our job, our worries, on any amount of things….but not on the glorious beauty before us. By awakening enthusiasm and focusing people’s attention directly on nature using innovative and creative methods is the genius of this Sharing Nature books and is something that will never go out of style.
What is your most memorable childhood nature experience? What were the elements that made it so profound? How has that experience shaped your love and commitment to nature?
What has been your most profound experience using one of the Sharing Nature activities?
Please share experiences here and on the curriculum website if you have come up with ones related to this book with your students or family.
Look forward to hearing your thoughts and encounters.
Visit the Sharing Nature Foundation to learn more about Greg's work and Sharing Nature with Children.


luxiii said...

Our local library has a well-loved copy of "Sharing Nature with Children" and we love it! So many books have cutsy crafts or toddler nature games, but thisone is excellent for older chiildren. We especially like the ones that encourage us to listen to the sounds of nature - it is one of the few times my chatty boys will listen intently to the world around them.

Gregory said...

Hi luxiii! Joseph said that Sharing Nature with Children was secretly written to to awaken the child in adults! It really is a great for all age groups...old and young

The Sounds exercise is one of my favorite activities as well because it is so simple and helps to calm me down. As Thoreau said, "one cannot perceive beauty but with a serene mind."

Have you done a blindfold walk with them?

Jan Hummer said...

I would like to share my experience teaching a child with special needs with an activity from Sharing Nature with Children.

The Art of Micro Investigations:

From Joseph Cornell’s (1979), Sharing Nature with Children, I have taken the micro-hike activity and its basic idea of seeing things in different way to encounter nature’s tiniest gifts that make a large impact on the environment. I wasn’t sure how he was going to react to this activity, because it required him to get on his belly on the ground so to be fully enveloped by smells and sensations the ground has to offer.

We started off the activity slowly. He chose a magnifying glass from a box that I placed on the table. He took the biggest magnifying glass in his hand and twirled it around. He looked at the magnifying glass from every angle, similar to a careful scientist who may be doing an experiment with a beaker. We started the activity with a small mediation by placing our hands to the earth and gently stroking the fine tips of grass with our fingers. He smiled at this small physical contact with the earth, rubbed his hands together, and said, “Let’s go use the magnifying glass now.”

We walked near the creek bed, and he investigated the area carefully. I instructed him to lie on his belly and look through his tool with one eye. This took awhile, and I let go my expectations for the activity. If he wanted to look through the magnifying glass with both eyes maybe he knew something I didn’t. He moved along the ground clumsily at first but then he started to slither like a snake. He carefully muttered to himself in low tone only the insects and dirt could hear. He didn’t want to stop and each time we do this activity it is the same thing over and over again: he wants to continue investigating and playing with the new friends he encounters in this new and magical world.

We made many attempts at this activity; he has requested it at least twice a month since we started our activities in nature. He takes this activity slowly so he doesn’t hurt the creatures on the ground. He commented recently, “I did it. I didn’t hurt anything I like in the grass today. They were there and I kept them safe” (Personal Journal Entry, March 18, 2011). Doing an activity like this illuminates his child–like wonder and cultivates a sense of stewardship. The meditative qualities of the micro-hike are revealed, because the activity engages all of the senses on a universal level. The activity allows children living with special needs to find a world in which he or she can be “king of the small things” as he likes to put it. Personally, I wanted to engage in this activity with him, to invite myself to be side-by-side and encounter his magical world as well. I have let this idea go, because this is something he needs to do on his own; he needs to feel the grandeur of the beauty of this planet we all call home.