Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Reality of How We Do Nature Study

Nature study.  For some, the phrase invokes lovely images of a mom and her brood of children walking together serenely through a field or woods, lingering perhaps to sketch a leaf here and a butterfly there, carefully collecting treasures for later and closer examination, with mom calmly offering necessary guidance and pointing out various points of interest.

Well, in theory, this is kind of what our family does.

In theory.  In practice, not quite so picturesque or calm and serene.

We muck about.  We tromp. We go off the path. We get lost.  (Always take the time to stop and get a map.  Just saying.)

I always bring along small paper bags, plastic ziplock baggies and a critter container for all the fascinating specimens discovered along the way on our nature walks.  But the reality is, that over the years it's been my pockets that end of getting stuffed with all the *treasures*.  Some are slimy.  Some leak.  Some are dead.  Some aren't. *shudder*  And for some reason I have yet to figure out, I always seem to be left carrying a very big stick.  Always.

We spend forever in one spot on our walks.  Not moving forward. Forever. So much to see, so much to discover - but we're easily distracted from the well trodden path.  A mucky pond area, a fallen tree, a dried up creek bed full of water snails...they beckon and invite.  So we stay.

There's no plan.  No lesson.  No carefully coordinated and themed notebooking pages.

What we do is messy.  It's dirty.  It's chaotic.  And in case I didn't mention it before, so much fun!

This approach to nature study is *us*.   It fits.  And I personally find it's where the true magic and wonder happens.  Off the path - in the muck and bramble (and poison ivy) - there are unusual discoveries to be found, interesting adventures to be had...and by far, the best memories are made.

It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents of all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in.  Let them once get in touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life.  We were all meant to be naturalists, each to his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things. - Charlotte Mason