There are so so many huge concepts that teachers and parents feel responsible for imparting to our young charges. It is a daunting task, introducing someone to the notions of empathy, collaboration, self-reliance, reflection and confidence, to be sure.
We would do well to remember that so many of those same lessons were imparted to us not through the wise words of a mentor, but through the silent (and likely VERY intentional) modeling of a teacher, a peer, or the greatest teacher of all, our Mother Nature.
I overheard this interaction recently, while in the forest with our students and teachers:
Ms. Jung: Hi there, M, watcha doing? It looks like you are trying to uproot this poor little tree.
Student M: Pulling on dis twee
Ms. Jung: Aw, Poor tree. Let’s not pull it. It wants to grow leaves in the spring.
Student M: Why?
Ms. Jung: So it can give us shade, and it can feed the animals
Student M: Oh. Otay. De twee wants to gwow?
Ms. Jung: Yes. It does
Student M: Otay
Our teachers work very hard to facilitate safe, revelatory experiences for our students, and sometimes the smallest interactions can have profound impacts. Student’s time in the forest gives them examples of caring for others, working together, and following through on plans. When we are climbing tress, balancing on fallen logs, or swinging from vines, we’re developing upper body strength, balance, courage, building self-esteem, gross motor skills, and learning how to experience joy.
If we can muster the courage to throw the door of the world open wide and to then step back in courage and make room for new experiences, our reward is getting to experience again, as if for the first time, a true and pure sensation of joy and freedom.