One of the best benefits of forest school is knowledge of nature. We sometimes think that kids will automatically understand night and day, seasons, plants, and animals, but they need to truly experience these things in ways that are meaningful to them in order to connect.
Sounds good right? But in practice, really grabbing hold of a child’s attention, and turning curiosity into passion can be tough!
Out one day, a boy sees a bug, a BIG bug! Excitedly he runs to his mother. “Come and see what I found!”, he tells her. Together they run to the place of the bug, and there it is, gracefully perched on a slim branch.
“It’s a preying mantis,” says the mother.
“Oh,” says the boy, and he runs off.
When a child is curious about something, our first inclination is to name it. We think it must be important to know what that something is. But as in the story above, once we name the object of curiosity, the child’s interest is lost. I want to invite you to try it different way. Instead of labeling the object, ask a question. By asking questions, we keep the child’s interest, fueling their curoisity.
Out one day, a boy sees a bug, a BIG bug! Excitedly he runs to his mother. “Come and see what I found," he tells her. Together they run to the place of the bug, and there it is, gracefully perched on a slim branch.
“Wow, look what you found!” says the mother, “What do think it is?”
“I don’t know,” says the boy, "A spider.”
“Hmm, how many legs does it have?”
“I think I remember that spiders have eight legs, but insects have six.”
“Maybe it’s an insect!” shouts the boy happily, and off he runs shouting, “I found an insect, I found an insect!”
In the second story, mom recognized and affirmed the boys interest in the bug, then used leading questions to open a dialogue about it. She introduced a little academic info into the mix to give a clue that lead the boy to his own conclusion.
When we just give the answer right away in the form of a name, we smush the child's own intrinsic desire for knowledge. Another boy was very excited about a rare bird he had spotted, when asked how he knew he had found that bird, he replied, "because the teacher said so."
Scott Sampson wrote in his book, How to Raise a Wild Child, about the “Sage on the Stage” vs. the “Guide Beside”. The Sage is preoccupied with labeling everything they see, they may feel strongly about knowing what a thing is called. After all it does seem smart to give an epithet, like Coopers Hawk, but if we are not paying attention to that creatures features, habits, and lifestyle, all we know is it's name.
At Worldmind, we practice the second approach. When your student makes a discovery, instead of giving it name and rattling off all the facts, like the Sage, try asking leading questions. Aim for one question for every year of your child’s age. Your kiddo’s conclusions will delight and amaze you.
It is likely that you guys will never make it to the correct answer to your questions, and that’s ok! The goal is to help your kiddo notice details about their object of interest, to maximize the amount of time spent interacting with it, and to ensure they trust their own intuitive, deductive process.
Caroline Griesel holds a Bachelors in Zoology with Entomology focus from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She has combined 7 years experience in education, including teaching children's English classes in Japan, and being a Para-professional in public schools. She also spent some time in Ecotourism, researching ecological relationships between ants and sea birds, and guiding kayak tours to the research site. She is currently working on a Level 3 Practitioner Certification from the Forest School Association in the UK. A childhood fishing and combing the beaches of Galveston, Texas inspired her to ensure a lifelong connection to nature and self-discovery through nature are possible for everyone. She is an amateur naturalist and adventurer, who loves curating her collection of rocks and minerals, stargazing, and bushcraft.
What Our Clients Are Saying
“While our boys attended Worldmind Nature Immersion School (WNIS), they have shown significant improvement with their emotional intelligence, mental and physical health, and social competence- among other developmental skills emerged through WNIS ECE program. We believe these elements are breakthrough impacts- foundational prerequisites for success in school, the workplace, and developing future environmental stewards in our nature-deficient society. WNIS ECE program shifts core concepts in early childhood development that forces us as parents into rethinking current health and education policies.”
"Our family across ages has been deeply impacted by WNIS, but the most interesting has been our youngest. She was only 4 months old when we began, and spent much of her first winter bundled up on my back at school, but once she could be down there was no stopping her. She exhibits a level of independence that her two older sisters took much longer to come to. She walked sooner, talked sooner, and is easily content with nothing but the elements to play with. As a whole. my children have moved away from the need for any toys in general, and prefer their imaginations. I believe we are as a family much healthier as well. In one of the worst winter seasons currently, and my kids barely have a sniffle. Including my baby."
“WNIS is the kind of place you can leave your child knowing that they will be empathized with, understood, and empowered - rare but highly valued qualities.”