Friday, August 31, 2007

Five for Friday - Tips For Sharing Nature With Your Children

Teach less, and share more.
Instead of just telling your child the facts of nature, express your feelings about the natural world. Let her know that a thunderstorm makes you feel adventurous, while worms make you wonder what it’s like to live under the ground.

Be receptive.
Listen. Be aware of the thoughts and feeling that your child is sharing with you. Be sensitive: every question, every comment, every joyful discovery is an opportunity to communicate and learn with your child.

Focus your child’s attention.
Set the tone of your outing by asking questions and pointing out interesting sights and sounds. Some children are not used to watching nature closely, so find things that interest them, and lead them bit by bit into the spirit of keen observation. Let them know that their findings are interesting to you, too.

Look and experience first; talk later.
Don’t worry if you don’t know all the answers. The names of plants and animals are only superficial labels for what those things really are. Just as your own essence isn’t captured by your name, or even by your physical appearance or personality traits, there is also much more to an oak tree than a name and a list of facts about it. You and your child can gain a deeper appreciation of an oak by watching how the tree’s mood shifts with changes in lighting at different times of the day.

Fill learning with joy
Whether it’s real laughter or a peaceful attentiveness, your child will absorb learning naturally if you can keep the spirit of the occasion happy and enthusiastic.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I Know That Tree!

This project requires more trees that we have in our yard (and I’m certain Maya could recognize her nectarine tree immediately!), so a trip to the park or a small patch of woods is in order. The instructions can be adapted according to the ages of the participants and all ages can enjoy this activity, although it’s a bit more suited to slightly older children and adults.

With a partner, go to an area with at least a half dozen trees (more is better, a forest is best!)
Tie a bandana loosely around one partner’s eyes as a blindfold. If your child is reluctant to be blindfolded, ask them to close their eyes while you hold one hand in front of them to prevent peeking.
Choose a tree and carefully lead your blindfolded friend in a roundabout route to that tree.
Without using her eyes, have your friend begin to explore the tree and discover what makes this tree unique.
You can help by asking questions. “Is this tree’s bark smooth or rough?” “Can you put your arms all the way around it?” “Are there any holes or bumps on this tree?” “Can you reach any leaves? What shape are they?” “How does this tree smell?” “What about under this tree? What is there? Can you feel roots, moss, needles, rocks?”
Let your partner take as long as she wants to get to know this tree, then carefully lead her back to your starting point (be sure to use an indirect route).
Remove the blindfold or take your hand away and ask her to try and find the tree with her eyes open.

Suddenly, what at first seemed to be group of trees, now becomes a collection of very individual trees.
One of them has become a tree that your friend has met and knows very well!

I discovered this learning activity many years ago in the book by Joseph Cornell – ‘Sharing Nature with Children’.
In the introduction to his book, Mr. Cornell wrote “At one time or another in our lives nature touches…all of us in some personal, special way. Her immense mystery opens to us a little of its stunning purity, reminding us of a Life that is greater than the little affairs of man.”
“I have never underestimated the value of such moments of touching and entering into nature. I have seen through my own experience, and that of many others, that we can nourish that deeper awareness until it becomes a true and vital understanding of our place in the world.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nurturing The Bond Between Child And Tree

The year that Maya was born, the first year in our new house, Grampy planted a nectarine tree in the back yard. It was a very busy year – remodeling, repairs, a new baby – the young tree was rarely noticed or remembered. It grew on its own and seemed happy.

Spring came again, and summer; now the baby was old enough to crawl about in the grass. A beagle puppy joined her. The grandmother gathered up the green nectarine marbles that were falling to the ground under the tree and fretted about choking hazards. The tree continued to grow without tending and seemed happy.

This year, Maya is three years old. The young nectarine tree is now her tree. We’ve watched it since spring, first the buds and the flowers, then the tiny green fruit and now…Yesterday we began to pick the small speckled nectarines and eat them. Suspicious at first (a nectarine isn’t a vegetable, is it?) - after a couple of tentative nibbles, Maya was gobbling fruit with the juice running down her chin.

We have other trees in our yard. There is a large maple that shades Maya’s wading pool. Another maple provides a canopy over the swing. We’ve gathered colored leaves from these trees in the fall, taped pieces of paper on the trunks and made rubbings of bark with our crayons. But it is the nectarine tree with her gift of sweet fruit that has completed the bond between child and tree, awakening the awareness that the earth is alive with abundance and treasure.

Rachel Carson, in her book ‘Edge of the Sea’ writes “Only as a child’s awareness and reverence for the wholeness of life are developed can his humanity to his own kind reach it’s full development.”

We can encourage our children’s relationship with trees and the natural world around them while at the same time renewing our own awareness of its blessings.
Spend time looking up to watch the patterns of light shimmering and shifting between the leaves. Put your ear against the tree and listen, smell the leaves, feel the bark against your cheek.
Pick a favorite tree and begin a tree diary. Take photographs, draw pictures, trace leaves, make leaf and bark rubbings throughout the year, observing your tree friend change with the seasons.

For lots of ideas on ways to share your love of nature (and trees!) with your children visit the Yahoo Environment and Nature Education Directory

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Grandmother's Grandmother

My mother went to her cedar chest and took out a tiny, carefully folded sweater.
Knit by her mother, it was knit for me, before I was born. My mother handed it to me.
I sat with it in my hands for a while tonight, thinking of generations of women, generations of family born from these women.
I will frame this baby's sweater and her precious little cap and keep them where I will see them often.
I will tell my granddaughter of Grammy's grandmother, great Grammy's mother, great-great Grandmother and the sweater that she made.

because "It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which hold people together through the years."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Little Eyes Watching You

Summer With Grandmother Wren is coming to a close - Autumn is almost here - Welcome to the remainder of the year At Home With Grandmother Wren. Please change your bookmarks and if you have an email subscription to Summer With Grandmother Wren, please use the subscription form to your left to sign up for your new daily email from Grandmother's Home.

Today was Grocery Shopping Day for Maya and Grammy. At the end of every shopping trip, if all has gone well and cheerfully until check-out, Maya rides the mechanical pony that stands just outside the grocery store door. Today all was well, we stopped at the pony. A little boy was already there, riding the tiny carousel next to the pony. His mother said he could have three rides, one for each horse on the carousel. She invited Maya to join him.
Finished with riding, we thanked the little boy and his mother and began bringing our groceries to our car. Maya looked back at her new friends. "That boy is nice. He is a good "share-er" with his coins. He's a good boy."
Yes he is.
A very nice boy.
And I remembered a poem I've saved for moments just like this one, moments of learning without teaching, learning from watching who we are.

When You Thought I Wasn't Looking
a poem by Mary Rita Schilke Korzan,
written for her mother

When you thought I wasn't looking,
you hung my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
you fed a stray cat,
and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
you baked a birthday cake just for me
and I knew that little things
were special things.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
you said a prayer,
and I believed there was a God I could always talk to.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
you kissed me good-night
and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
I saw tears come from your eyes
and I learned that sometimes things hurt,
but that it's all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
you smiled
and it made me want to look that pretty, too.

When you thought I wasn't looking,
you cared
and I wanted to be everything I could be.

When you thought I wasn't looking -

I looked. . .

and wanted to say thanks for all
the things you did when you
thought I wasn't looking.