in the parkReaders of this blog know we focus on exploration of a child’s human spirit. Nature plays a crucial role in spiritual development and health. After all– to state the obvious– it’s our natural habitat. We are wired for it. Children need to spend time in nature– even city kids need the parks.

From nature, children…

  • gain a certain perspective unattainable from any other source
  • acquire neuroconnections key to brain function

Nature advances a web of life perspective

ecosystemOne of Alexander von Humboldt’s most important discoveries was that nature is a web of life. He found Earth to be one great living organism and a place where everything is connected. Humboldt wrote, “no single fact can be considered in isolation.”

He was the first to recognize the forest as an ecosystem. As such, he predicted devastating consequences of despoiling the face of the earth.  However, though he was captivated by empirical data, he never lost his sense of wonder. He wrote that, “nature must be experienced through feeling.”

How do the children in your life “feel” nature’s web of life?
  • Relationally – through a connection with their pet(s), tending vegetables in a garden, nurturing a potted plant
  • Powerfully – awe and wonder of nature as far bigger than all of us, through astronomy, IMAX nature movies
  • Creatively – inspiration for poetry, photography
  • Experientially – sitting at the side of a lake listening to the water lap against the shore

Connections with nature build neuroconnections in the child’s brain.

From Dr. Becky Bailey’s work on Conscious Discipline, I learned more about how a child’s connections on the outside build neuroconnections on the inside. When relating to people, these outside connections come from eye contact, touch and presence.

PIC00009.JPGWhen relating to nature, one woman describes an insight gained from sitting in a forest:

Your colleagues or supervisor at work won’t allow you to pursue your ideas. Then, you notice that a tree looks like it was initially growing in one direction, but something got in the way and now it’s growing—and thriving—in another. It’s as if the tree is saying, “Grow where you can! Send your energy to where you will be nurtured!”

A sense of peace envelops you as you lay down a fruitless struggle. Then a new creative space emerges as a more helpful question dawns on you: “Where can I grow?” (Kris Abrams)

Many great writers, thinkers, scientists, and poets have reflected extensively on nature:

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  (Albert Einstein)

Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.  (E. O. Wilson)

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  (Henry David Thoreau)

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.  (William Wordsworth)

Children learn all living things can be our teacher.

Happy Earth Day!


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