"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."Trusting that all life is connected gives our children meaning in a complex and confusing world. It grounds them when they feel tossed and battered by external events. A marvelous and available way to educate children to the purposes of living things is to expose them to nature. Earth Day, celebrated on April 22, is a wonderful occasion to begin.
-Rachel Carson, naturalist and author
Children come to us with their senses already turned on. They explore a caterpillar by touching it gently against their cheek, trying to find its eyes, sniffing it to see if it has a smell. All we need to do is expose them to more of the great outdoors and encourage their exploration and "at-oneness" with living creatures. It all sounds great, but it's not that simple. As children's days become full of plans, classes, school, and friendships, they slowly drift away from their rich relationship with nature. I was approached during the break of a recent talk I gave by a mother of three who yearned for her kids to maintain their connection with the natural world. She said, "I always took my kids to the playground, on hikes in the woods, or just outside to play with the dog. Now there is no time for them to be outdoors unless it's in organized sports."
Here are some ways to reinforce children's connections to nature and the earth:
Nature restores our sense of peace and allows us to feel life touching us--it soothes and nourishes our spirits and sometimes frightens us with its power. We make this gift available to our children as we teach them to become respectful of the earth, to walk with awareness, to recycle, and to leave no destructive record of their visit. The natural world is our perpetual, yet ever-changing link with the universe. God, nature, and child all share the same space, connected in the powerful web of life. All parts of the web have importance and purpose. Celebrate Earth Day as an opportunity to become reacquainted with our glorious Mother Earth. You and your child will be blessed by the effort.