I CAN’T SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES
There is an expression, can’t
see the forest for the trees
literally means getting so caught up in the details that one loses sight of the
problem, the question, or the situation.
But in nature, it is the opposite. I can’t
see the trees for the forest.
And teaching a new class is just like that
for me. I can’t see the children for the
Until I understand each child better, I don’t know what they need. I hope my lessons are meaningful
but it takes me time to discover who each person is - their individual strengths and challenges, likes and dislikes, friends and frienemies - before I know how best to steer attention and ignite
That is my aim. Ignite the children’s
curiosity so they become nature teachers too. We simply don’t have enough
nature teachers and time is running out for the trees and the bees. But that is
morbid. My aim is to inspire.
I have been teaching a nature class called Naturally Fun
to four and five-year olds for the last five years.
I have created a curriculum that introduces
children to trees and leaves; birds, reptiles, and bugs; rocks and water.
I think I like my Watershed Class best but
the Christmas Bird Count and Leaf Collection and Big Bug Dig are lots of fun too
that it is hard to choose just one.
every year concludes with a day at a nearby nature center where the kids get to
go creeking. When the parents come, I feel like cupid because now I have gotten
Mom and Dad to fall in love with nature too.
My new class is a mixed Montessori group of elementary
school kids. I have three 6-year olds, three 8-year olds and three 9-year olds.
All are boys except for one girl who I will call Eve. She is one of the 6-year olds and already
showing her mettle; I am quite fond of her to say the least. I am working with a seasoned
teacher who is just as excited as the kids to learn more about nature and she
patiently helps me to stay on track. Being a nature teacher means I am a little
distracted. How could I not be? There is so much to see and tell! Where to
begin?? Then I hear Julie Andrews start to sing and I think, oh right. Start from the very beginning. I am also
working on curbing my wit. I am funny. But whether the kids understand my humor
or not, they devolve easily. Admittedly, I pack too much into my hour-long lessons… I am working on that.
Recently, I came across a great term in Richard Louvs book, Last
Child in the Woods
. It is called Directed Attention Fatigue.
The way I interpret it, I should talk less.
Smile more. And let the kids discover the woods themselves. (Thank you, Lin
Funny. This isn’t even the blog I wanted to write. I wanted
to share what the Fernwood kids dug up. But today's lesson had the kids changing location every ten minutes so that I cycled
three groups of three children to survey three sites and look for more
than three invertebrates. THEN they had to count what they saw and write it
down. YIKES! Even my head is spinning now that I think about how much they had
to do in so little time.
The plan looked
good on paper but it was unrealistic and neurotic. Fortunately, Adam (who would rather be engineering the trail,) saw a
green, wingless insect on a spicebush leaf just as we were calling it a wrap, and
he called me over to ask, What is it?
by its color, I said, I don’t know! Hum.
My guess it is an insect despite being wingless.
After the kids left, I spent time getting to know the neon
bugger better. I am still not sure if it is an insect but it has most of the
qualifiers: six legs, two antennae, maybe three body parts but no wings. Trapped
inside an acrylic bug box, I discovered it climbs quickly on tall articulated
legs; it reminded me of a daddy long leg.
And when it felt threatened, it folded up like a pop-up tent. I watched
the critter for 10 minutes before walking
further into the woods to look for more insects. What I found was this: a living snail underneath a huge oyster-like
mushroom, (all the others we found were just dead, dried and empty shells,) and
a white speck or feather floating in the air. It landed briefly on a limb near me before taking flight again. It wasn’t lint or fluff or feather after all. It was alive.
Next week I plan to repeat this week’s lesson but with a few edits. The kids will look for invertebrates at one site (not three,) and take
as long as they want to see the bug for the invertebrates for themselves.
PS Here is the incredible mushroom. Can YOU see the shiny snail shell? Hint: It is a tiny glint and it is located in the lower right quadrant.