Sunday, 21 August 2011

Discovering Through a Child's Eyes

This summer I did something very different... I ran a day camp. One in July and one in August. The goal is to take young kids out into nature and teach them the ancient ways. The way our ancestors learned way back when. There were no formal schools, nothing with walls, just the great outdoors and an elder that possessed the wisdom and knowledge of nature, the ways to read your surroundings so you can hunt and gather better. So that you have an appreciation for your community as you all work together to accomplish tasks. And to gain your own self confidence, skills and esteem of who you are and where you fit into this world.

I was very excited to embark on this new adventure and one of my own mentors said something in my own teaching and learning, and that was to approach each person you are mentoring with new eyes. To participate in the wonder and the newness and the unknown found in the eyes of our young. This really stuck with me as I took the camp kids out on our daily excursions into the woods, to a local stream or pond. That it is in their own unknown that they will learn the most.  And to be honest, it is in this unknown that I learn the most too.

Sometimes we get caught up in the teacher role. That we must feed the answers to our students, filling them up with facts and information, in hopes that they will remember them. I know I have, and to be honest, has stopped me in teaching something because I didn't have the answers. Perhaps this is what stops other teachers, and parents. That we feel we must know the answer... but really, it couldn't be farther from the truth.

Have you ever watched a child try to catch a frog? Do you notice that they are first quick, jumping about, hollering and chasing it through the grass or pond, only to be eluded in the end. Disappointed they may give up... or do they?  I tried telling how to catch a frog... that you have to be slow, stalking, fox walking, and quiet. But I find they ignore what you are saying and continue their own method of capturing.

But if you get down on all fours with them, and try to catch frogs with them, moving slowly, stalking, fox walking and being quiet, they watch. When they see you wrap your hands around an unsuspecting frog and capture it, all their senses come alive. Hmmmm, so that is how you do it.

Many people say, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear, but I like to think that Rachel Carson said it best in the end of one her quotes:

"It is more important to pave the way for a child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts that he is not ready to assimilate."

So true. And it is through this that I learn that I do not need to know all the answers. That through playing games and discovering together, that I can lead a child to their edge of comfort. That through that edge, that child will learn to focus their attention, to sit still, to work together among their peers, to be part of a community, to gain confidence in their own skills and their self esteem through it. It is through this discovering together in nature that allows each individual to do this on their own terms. I am just glad to be part of it and discover myself through the eyes of a child.

Video of the camp 2011