While infusing indigenous knowledge into their curriculum,
wilderness programs emphasize universal principles such as deep understanding of local environments and life’s interconnectedness.
“Fire making is for everybody. Shelter making is for everybody. We are all caretakers of the land,” says Berry. Physical and other challenges, such as walking blindfolded
through the woods, heighten sensory perception while building confidence. “Te landscape is a great teacher with its uneven ground and obstacles, posing an opportunity to learn agility, practice balance and ultimately, expand awareness,” says Simon Abramson, associate director of Wild Earth (WildEarth.org
), in High Falls, New York. Nature-immersion programs like Wild Earth’s further help
kids sharpen their observation skills through activities like learning to identify birdsongs and trees. During a popular activity called “sit spot”, children learn to sit quietly, listen and observe from a specific location they may revisit over the course of a day or year to witness nature’s varied beauty. Another time, they may try “foxwalking”, creeping silently and slowly, or test their “owl vision”, using periph- eral vision. For younger kids, instructors may incorporate such skills into a game like “coyote or rabbit,” where by staying still, they can avoid detection by a predator. Kids learn to listen both to nature and their own inner voice,
which can be challenging in the midst of dominating peers and authority figures. “We build on the tradition of vision quest, in taking time to get quiet in nature and hear what the heart is say- ing,” says Berry. Activities may be patterned aſter natural cycles of the
seasons, the four directions and diurnal rhythms. On a bright morning, emphasis is on high-energy, outward-facing activities; day’s end brings a pause to reflect, glean and share what partici- pants have made and learned.
Lasting Life Lessons Mother Nature’s lessons can be hard-earned, but the outdoor trials that kids experience are oſten their most honored and mem- orable moments. Whether youths try out a wilderness program for a season or stay on for years, Earth-based learning can have an enduring impact. Tey help foster healthy relationships not only with the Earth,
but with other people, according to Samuel Bowman, a program coordinator with the Wilderness Awareness School (Wilderness Awareness.org
), in Duvall, Washington. Team-driven activities like building a communal shelter can help kids learn how to work through conflict, listen to others and appreciate differences. “Te kids that have come through our programs prove to be
creative problem-solvers prepared to handle just about anything. Tey have focus and commitment, and tend to be service oriented,” observes Abramson, noting that 60 percent of their instructors are alumni. “Tinking back on kids we’ve worked with, you can oſten see
their wilderness journey reflected in their paths as adults, how they are making choices with their heart and pursuing their passions,” concludes Berry.
Connect with April Tompson, in Washington, D.C., at AprilWrites.com
April 2018 37 The CrystalGarden
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hese resources will help parents and educators con-
nect with quality, nature-based learning.
Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature (CoyotesGuide.com
is an inspirational publication for teachers, mentors and parents based on ancient worldwide cultural wisdom, including mythic animal stories, nature-based ceremonies and survival tools.
Te Tracker School (TrackerSchool.com
), founded by wilderness
expert Tom Brown in 1978, offers 75 classes on wilderness survival skills and a list of tracker clubs and affiliates across North America and beyond. Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children is another respected resource.
Children & Nature Network (ChildrenAndNature.org
nects children, families and communities with nature through evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and grassroots leadership. Tis international initiative was co-founded by Richard Louv, renowned author of Last Child in the Woods: Sav- ing Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.
Earth Skills Alliance (EarthSkillsAlliance.com
) is a collective
of youth program leaders dedicated to Earth skills instruction. Its annual conference and other platforms share best practices and experiences.
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