All April I’ll be participating in the Let’s G.O. (Get Outside) Challenge - with my daughter - inspired by the Children and Nature Network. Our goal is to spend more time outside each day, exploring our local community and enjoying nature. We didn’t set a specific time requirement, our goal is just more. I encourage everyone and especially educators, to join this initiative.

Let’s G.O.! (Get Outside) is a youth-inspired, youth led Children & Nature initiative to rally people of all ages to Play, Serve and Celebrate during the month of April. We’re encouraging intergenerational groups of people to get outside, be active, have fun and connect with nature. Families, teachers, students, mentors, grandparents and grand friends - especially children and youth - are invited to participate. -The Children and Nature 

Join us and thousands of other families. Let’s G.O. (Get Outside)!

 
 
This month I took a little class called “Mentoring Kids in Nature” by Judy Osman at REI Encinitas. Great class that I learned about through the Family Adventures in Nature Meetup group in San Diego.

Class Description: Are you a parent or educator and want to inspire children to connect with nature? Join us for an exploration of teachings from the Wilderness Awareness School for youth of all ages. Through classroom discussion and “in the field” activities, we will connect with our innate ability to learn from nature, and develop a nurturing perspective on the art of mentoring children. At the end of this class you will have a foundation for engaging children’s inherent wonder through games and activities, without necessarily having to “teach” them.

Notes

Sit Spots and Storytelling
  • A sit spot is a place we get to know very well. A private, special place to explore and really get to know
  • It should be a place we can get to often and easily. Finding a balance between location and frequency is important. It should be a special place, but close to ensure frequent visits; Your own yard can be a sit spot and you might be more likely to visit every day. Or it could be down the street or other side of town, but be sure only to pick this is you can commit to visiting often
  • Sit spots are important because… They can be a place for reflection and contemplation. These places create ‘brain patterning’; connection and association between observations made in this place and the rest of the world. Sit spots encourage in depth learning about a small set of information and being able to extrapolate that knowledge to other situations

Animals as Inspiration: Owl Eyes, Fox Walking, and Bird Songs

  • Encourage kids to use a different perspective (and help widen perspective) by using animal qualities to explore the natural environment.
  • Owl Eyes - We practiced this in class; walk your path looking straight ahead, try not to move your eyes but instead use your peripheral vision to see your surroundings. Encouraging youth to do this can help them focus and really see their environment; explain why its called owl eyes and how owls use their large eyes and peripherial vision to see their surroundings without moving their eyes
  • Fox Walking - kids get down on their hands and knees. They take on the shape of animals and move in different ways to explore small spaces without “walking” space.

The Art of Questioning
  • Questioning - over lecture style teaching of imparting knowledge - encourages kids to think critically about their learning. Instead of directly telling kids about a certain type of plant or name of an animal, ask them questions about what they observe: “what do you notice about this tree?” what does its leaves look like (shape, color)? If kids spend time with the materials, getting to know its unique qualities, they’ll be more likely to absorb and contextualize the information. Replying to questions of “what’s this called” too quickly isn’t as rich of an experience; kids are more likely to learn and forget quickly

50/50 Principle
  • Balancing planned and unplanned/unstructured time is important. Too much planning and scheduling might lead to rushing through the experience faster than ideal for the sake of teaching a set amount of information and disappointment/frustration when kids don’t “follow the plan.” Instead, allow for flexibility and quality experience even if it means not getting to everything. As the “mentor” you might plan a mile hike to explore a variety of plants and animals, but might only get through 1000 feet of the walk with the kids taking their time and exploring what they find interesting. And that is okay; even better!
By the way: You should totally check out The Children and Nature Network (national), The San Diego Children and Nature Collaborative (local) and the Family Adventures in Nature San Diego group (local)!

 
 
"Unless we teach our children peace, someone else will teach them violence.” -Colman McCarthy

Peace Education as Worldview Transformation

Our worldview - the way we see the world and human nature - is a key aspect of peace education. H.B. Danesh wrote that “truly effective peace education can only take place in the context of a unity-based worldview” (Danesh 18). This is because if we believe that the world is a place of scarcity and competition and if we believe that human beings are prone to violence and conflict, then we carry those belief in our relationship with the world. In this framework, there can never be enduring peace. However, if we see the world as cooperative and collaborative, then we can recognize that peaceful relationships are the most natural existence for society. We need an education system that fosters a non-violence based worldview. We should want our children to see the world as a safe and abundant place of opportunity. Education is the primary vehicle through which we can foster a peaceable worldview.

Our current education system treats violence as the default mode of humanity. We accept violence and injustice in our classrooms in the form of bullying and one sided teacher-student power dynamics. History class focuses on how wars and conflicts have shaped the world; three of the only non-war-based periods taught are the agricultural revolution, the scientific revolution, and the Enlightenment. The conflict-driven bias is so ingrained in our worldview that even science preaches the philosophy of survival of the fittest. The collaborative nature of the world is barely acknowledged despite the fact that all organisms function on the collaboration of cells and organs. Many species hunt and live in packs and ecoSYSTEMS include many diverse species that work together for mutual benefit. Peace Education isn’t only a subject to be taught in a separate class - like history, math or science - its a perspective and an entire worldview within which we need to teach these subjects. It’s also a way of teaching.

Experiencing Peace in Education

Effective education should involve students as participants and engage them in the materials they are learning rather than as passive sponges that are simply taking in knowledge with no prior context and no unique output. For what do we teach students if not to apply the information they receive. Experiential education enriches the learning process by adding meaning and relevance to the individual student. Play-based, project-based, and service-based learning require active participation on the part of the student. When subjects are taught through experiential methods, the student then makes a connection from the information to something in their own lives and communities. Education based on meaningful experiences also means that this education begins much earlier and is much more integrated in the students life - not just six hours a day in the formal classroom setting.

From the youngest age, we can foster experiences of peace and justice, long before we begin to teach peace in a formal setting. Parents and other adults (and other children) in an infants life are the first relationships they form. These relationships have the power to make a lasting impression on the individual child about the nature of the world. If those relationship are nonviolent and based on love instead of power, a child begins life knowing that the world is a place of peace, safety, and acceptance. As Lourdes Quisumbing expressed during her speech at the Second World Forum on Early Care and Education:

“…early childhood education for peace is first of all, good education. It consists primarily in providing high quality experiences and activities that ensure wholesome growth and development… Children learn the foundation blocks of peace: basic trust, a positive self-image, self-esteem and confidence, initiative and creativity. They develop the ability to relate with others, to express themselves, to communicate, to listen, to settle conflicts and quarrels amicably. They begin to value peace and harmony, empathy and compassion, friendship and forgiveness” (Quisumbing 4).

This continues during a child’s first experiences in formal education. The classroom should be a safe space for the child to learn and grow. Relationships with teachers and fellow students should not be violent or struggles for power and control. If the classroom - where many students spend mosr of their day - is a place of harmony, justice, and peace then this is the foundation of their first experiences with the greater world.

Work Cited

Danesh, H.B., Clarke-Habibi, S. (Eds.). (2011). Education for Peace Reader: Integrative Curriculum Series Volume 4. Vancouver, Canada: International Education for Peace Institute.

Quisumbing, L.R. (2000). Education Young Children for a Peaceful World. Child Care Information Exchange. (134), 6-11.