Today was Day 1 of my three days of training as a volunteer at the Wehr Nature Center.
I had a blast! We had story time, play time, nature hike, and best of all – the PUPPET SHOW! I got to be the dancing woodchuck! And the spider. And the deer. Okay, I’m a three year old at heart, and so I’m really looking forward to talking to 3 year olds about a subject that I really find interesting. It has been a while since I had daily interaction with a three year old. My oldest child was reading before she turned 3. I wonder what these urban pre-schoolers will be like? I wonder how much nature they actually see on a daily basis? What questions will they ask? What questions would I ask if I were seeing these things for the first time?
In Zen Buddhism, there’s a concept called Shoshin, which roughly means “Beginner’s Mind”. According to Wikipedia, “It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.” Shunryu Suzuki says, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” I am a beginner when it comes to teaching about nature. Here’s my wild idea of a possibility: this generations of kids might opt to live with fewer man-made or man-influenced constructs than the previous one. They might actually choose to halt technology and become truly progressive, moving “down and to the left”, in order to stall the destruction of species and resources. They might keep their experience of nature in the realm of wonder and respect and not desire to manipulate, dominate or conquer the natural world. In my beginner’s mind, environmental education might just contain those possibilities. I do not want to grow cynical. I can’t help thinking of my son’s reaction to his first banana slug, though. He might have been 6 at the time? His grandpa pointed out the bright, yellow slug crawling on the path beneath the California redwoods and told him what it was called. “How do you kill it?” he asked. I cringe. Where does that come from? He’s not like that any more.
Here’s something interesting I found in the woods today. Steve and I nicknamed it “the eyeball plant”. I have no idea what it is, but it kind of makes me wonder if life forms from other planets have already traveled here and are watching us….
White balls with a black dot on one side on red stalks. Cool, huh? It’s wild out there. I hope we can keep it that way.