Nature the Great Teacher
By Joan Holliday
“Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the stars and the mountains above. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.” David Polis
In writing the book, “Kennett Square: Shaping Our Future One Child at a Time,” Bob George and I marveled at the many after-school programs that are offered to school age children in the Kennett area. The Kennett Consolidated School System is intentional about teaching to each child while the broader community does an amazing job of reaching the youth through after-school programs---After the Bell, Study Buddies, The Garage Youth Center and Walk in kNowledge to name a few.
While we celebrated Kennett’s success with the youth in our book, we also identified the need for more supports and interventions for children from birth to 5 years. Research shows that this is the critical time when the brain is a sponge and is being structured for the rest of life. Kindergarten Readiness Collaboration has been working diligently to assure our community is reaching families of children in the pre-school age group to share this message and to provide resources for parents.
Parenting classes are being provided by The Family Center at Mary D Lang and preschool scholarships are both being funded by the Longwood Rotary. Lucky the Reader program was funded by the Pia Foundation and offered to a large number of families education and books, promoting the importance of reading to one’s child.
With a book in hand and interactions about the story, even if a parent’s literacy is low, a child experiences the importance of learning. These efforts are intended to empower parents to see their significant role in their child development.
Dr. Barry Tomasetti, Superintendent of Kennett Schools has been a leader in promoting parents’ involvement with their child throughout the school years. Recently he met with the graduating seniors, who were going on to prestigious colleges, asking them what role their parents played in their success. He reports that every student spoke about their parent’s strong message about the importance of learning and the parents staying interested and involved in their education.
Along with the joys of becoming a parent lies the grave responsibility of providing the support and environment that nurtures a child’s growth and development. Regardless of a family’s income, with the busyness of life, we may all forget the importance of parent engagement with children. It is easy to place a child in front of an iPad, iPhone or television and feel that they are being stimulated and educated. Again, research shows that just twenty minutes of parent-child quality time each day makes the difference in a child’s brain development.
One of the efforts that the Kindergarten Readiness Collaboration will be promoting in the new year is one of families getting outdoors together and learning what nature has to teach. Antoni Gaudi states: “Nature is the Great Book, always open, that we should force ourselves to read.”
On the most basic level, nature teaches about the physical environment and the spirit that sustains all life on this planet. There’s a huge difference between learning about nature from a book, versus seeing nature and having your own real-life experiences with birds, plants, trees and forests. Anson B Nixon Park at the edge of town is a wonderful classroom where children and families can observe and learn from nature, along with taking hikes on the many area trails. The best part is that this experience is open to each and all with no preference to income.
Being immersed in nature is like the exact opposite of being driven by technology. Nature helps you become grounded in the present moment so you can have more access to mental and emotional clarity. If we look back at all the greatest leaders and thinkers throughout history, many of them found their insight and inspiration through nature itself.
Our earth is hurting and most of the time it is due to human ignorance about how the whole living system works. Developing a naturalist and living system intelligence, we gain the capacity to see the interdependence of all living things and the importance of holding this in mind when making a human intervention. Maybe one of these children, taking a hike with her/his family will end up becoming an environmental scientist, transferring nature’s wisdom to some of the pressing earth pollution issues we are facing today.
Nature IS a book that needs to be read and reading it together as a family provides the opportunity to wonder how this all happens e.g., how does a seed really grow? Being in nature can develop inquisitiveness, adventure, awe and insight that will last a lifetime. There is no doubt that with nature as the great teacher, kindergarten students will be ready to take on the world!