I was thinking more about a conversation I had recently that led to lego-land and PB sandwiches as highlights expressed by children after engaging in rich nature experiences provided by parents. It got me thinking that experiences in the natural world must have a "sinking-in" process that is not easily measured by the observer or companion and perhaps the child in these cases. And then it got me thinking whether children have the vocab to describe the meanings or feelings generated from the experience and its significance to them. This can be hard to put one's finger on as an adult! It's much easier to express their joy for lego-land and PB sandwiches - right!? These experiences and their results are much more immediate and perhaps overshadow the deep imprints of the natural world...for the time being. Thus I have to believe and hope as a parent trying to cultivate rich experiences for my child in the natural world, that these early impressions are there, taking shape and transforming inside them, over time. Ultimately how each individual experiences, absorbs them, holds onto them gives shape and influence over time.
Pre-Program Guided Journal Reflection
Thank you for taking the time to reflect on your current ideas, appreciation and understanding around your parent-child-nature relationship prior to the start of the program. To assist you in this process, I have a few questions that may guide you. You can use these questions as a template or feel welcome to shape your comments and ideas as you choose.
Please submit your journal reflection prior to the start of the program on April 23rd.
Over the course of the program your journal reflections will provide a space to continue to explore your ideas, understanding, feelings and insights around your current and developing parent-child-nature relationship. I am excited to be exploring this relationship along side you!
The Parent-Child-Nature Relationship
Forgiving, exchange, presence
Meaningful Experiences in Nature
2 Nature Walks
1 Child-Led Explorations (free-play)
☐ Other ____________________________
Thank you for taking the time to answer and submit these questions before the first Urban Wild event on April 23rd.
I look forward to getting our family nature grooves on!
Alex and Hoot
"The young child is a creature of the meadow, and the meadow lives inside him" (Sobel, 2011, p. 41)
The meadow is a metaphor developed by Sobel to describe safe, nearby and close to parent exploration of the natural world during early childhood; 2- 6 years (Sobel, Wild Play, p.37). Sobel advocates for establishing a safe and trusting family bond as a precursor for bonding with the natural world (p. 39). Sobel acknowledges that our culture's obsession with cleanliness and fostering independence early on that can interfere with a child's sense of safety in experiencing the natural world...or the meadow (p.37, 38).
To counter these concerns, Sobel explains how a child's natural tendency to put everything in their mouth can create the conditions for a healthy intestinal system which boosts immunity (p. ...). Also more advocacy for what Sobel calls a "slow childhood" seems beneficial to all members of the family.
Once in the meadow of early childhood, a sense of empathy and bond for the natural world around, can be encouraged and developed through explorations, reflections, story telling, nature-role playing and metaphors (p. 39). Another benefit of exploring the meadow of early childhood is the rich learning environment it provides in supporting the expansive development of language during these early years (p. 39). Infusing language development while in or in reference to the natural world, can also have the benefit of an early sense of interdependence between our everyday lives and nature - increasing the bond (p. 40).
" Your shoes are lined up just the way the swallows sit on the telephone wire" (p.40) is an Sobel example of a nature metaphor in everyday conversations.
I love this idea and didn't realize we did this until I thought of my own example of a nature metaphor we use in our everyday lives: connecting the phases of the moon with eating our circles of cucumber. This is something I would like to be more conscious of and record! I love that this could support the early concept of interdependence between our everyday lives and nature.
Language as a powerful tool to how we come to understand the world we live in ..... need to explore further...
Mystical and magical...Sobel believes that "Cultivating such imaginative worlds in nature during childhood can nurture an ability to access wonder and delight that persists into adult life" (p.41)
It makes me think of our "secret path" to our house from the green space to our backyard. I would like to explore this more by creating stories around our secret path through the forest into our yard. Also I would still like to find a creative way to name our 13 mature spruce trees in the backyard and find a magical troll to place under our bridge connecting the patios in the back!
I think if we can nurture our creative minds and spirits in the outdoors to support our children's we will reconnect to our former child in nature. It also concerns me that if we are not providing the space or opportunities for our children to develop this sense of deep magic and wonderment in the natural world who will support and nurture the next generation's?
Sobel describes the following barriers for children spending time outside ...or having a "shortened childhood":
-"timesickness" : "the feeling that there's never enough time" for parents (p.23)
- Bogeyman Syndrome: parents' disproportional fear of risk for their children as a result of "the rampant media-ization of our lives" (p,24)
- Electronic diversions (p.24)
- two working parents (p.25)
- Schools increasingly high academic standards at earlier ages (p.25)
- Organized sports starting earlier in childhood (p.25)
A shortened childhood is of deep concern for Sobel. He prescribes to a long childhood of play as having a built in evolutionary purposes... (p.29)
To explain his feelings around the benefits of a slow childhood, Sobel quotes Henry David Thoreau: "The more slowly tress grow at first, the sounder they are at the core" (p.28)
To counter the severing effects of these barriers on the child-nature relationship/bond, Sobel turns to the role of parents in setting limitations as well as "providing alternatives that engage children deeply" (p.25)
To provide these alternatives Sobel suggests prioritizing outdoor play and he develops a framework that is age appropriate for engaging children outdoors that can be accessed as a kind of 'trail map' for parents to follow (Sobel, p.26-28)
"...making sure that the alternative magic of the natural world has enough chances to work on them and take hold during those early years" (p.25)
The Landscape of Childhood is a metaphor developed by Sobel suggesting a trail guide through "varied habitats" for providing developmentally appropriate ways to engage children in nature play (Sobel, 2011, p.27). Sobel explains that "each stage we are designed to seek something different with the outside world" (p. 27). Sobel suggests that adults in varied roles engaging with children in the outdoors will benefit from being "aware of the lay of the land in the child-nature landscape" (p.28). This awareness provides adult companions in nature with an age appropriate context for successfully engaging children in natural settings with the goal to develop an affinity with the natural world.
The Landscape of Childhood (p. 27-28)
The meadow of early childhood
The forest of early elementary years
The rocky outcrops of early adolescence
" Looking back over the result, it strikes me that I didn't really understand the developmental issues at work or the appropriate ways for children to engage with nature until I was in each stage, working out the relationships among my children, the natural world, and myself. And the writing process itself helped me understand what I experienced and what I believe." David Sobel, p. 31, Wild Play (2011)
"...I hoped the journal would help me to listen more closely and to capture fleeting observations and reflections." Sobel, p.31, Wild Play (2011)
"The process of keeping a journal about my children helped me to be a better parent and allowed me to think about how I wanted to cultivate their biological inclinations toward nature."
Sobel also goes on to describe parenting and journalling as a type of ethnography (2011, p.33)...when a parent reflects as an observer and participant in the culture of their family life.
1. What kind of parent-child-nature relationship do we want to cultivate? David Sobel ,p. 29, Wild Play (2011)
- How can family nature clubs help to nurture and cultivate a parent-child-nature relationship?
2. Parenting in nature:
-How is it different?
David Sobel, p.30, Wild Play (2011)
My program mode ......and 'community' as an important setting for nurturing the parent-child-nature relationship
Hosting family nature club events means that I fall quickly into "program mode". Although I started this program with the intention of providing meaningful experiences in nature for my family...as a host I often find I have very little to do with my family during events. I became more aware of this during my last April event. My son typically spends the majority of events with extended family with whom he adores! I feel that this has been a huge bonus for him as I think it provides additional support and confidence having a community of people who love him as part of building a meaningful experience outside. Associating people he loves with outdoor explorations I feel deepens the experience by creating more positive associations with time in natural settings. From my observations hosting family nature club events, it is community that is also an important partner in the parent-child-nature relationship!