Teaching Children JOY

Dear Parents
We hope you have been able to implement these suggestions with your little ones. Here is Part 3:

TEACHING JOY OF THE EARTH

There is such a beauty in the Earth. Joy comes through sensing it–with all five senses. I remember a poet I knew who wrote mostly of the Earth, who saw so much in the World that I didn’t see. He had a sign on his wall that said, “Five Sense Sagacity.” I asked him about it. He said that serendipity, which means happy accidents, pleasant surprises, comes about through sagacity, which means acute awareness, appreciation, sensitivity, which in turn comes about through applied, thorough use of all five senses. Think about that for a moment; it is quite a message: Happiness comes through awareness.

The Child’s Perspective

Our son Josh was fifteen months old & it was April. The Summer before, he had been too small to be outside much, so, on this first warm day of the year, he was seeing the backyard for the first time. I watched him in silence from the window. He started with the grass, first feeling it, then sitting down in it, moving his legs back & forth, so delighted that he laughed aloud. Then he lay down, mouth open with an expression of anticipation, as he felt the grass with the back of his head & neck. From that position he noticed the sky & the clouds. He lifted both arms, pointed both forefingers, formed a round O with his little mouth, & said, with a tone of reverence & amazement, “Oooh!”
Then a bird chirped in the nearby tree. Josh cocked his head, a little startled, not sure where the sound had come from. The bird chirped again. This time Josh saw where it was. He stood up & toddled toward the tree. The bird swooped down, floated twenty yards or so, & landed on the lawn. Josh followed the flight with a look of delight & utter amazement. As he watched, motionless, the bird began his staccato pecking at the grass & an instant later pulled up a squirming, wiggling worm. Josh shook his head, as if in disbelief, & started shuffling toward the bird. The bird fluttered back up into the tree, chirping all the way.
Josh repeated his earlier cloud gesture, pointing up at the bird with both hands & saying, “Oooh!”

How To

Teach the Earth’s terminology.
1. Look together at large picture books of animals, trees & flowers. Point to a picture & have the children say the name, or you say the name & have them point.
2. Point at things in nature wherever you go–point & say the names.
3. Involve the children in picnics, nature walks, exposure to the out-of-doors. At zoos or botanical gardens, or at home in the backyard, notice nature. Talk about it; ask the children to tell about it.
Teach deep appreciation for the Earth.
1. Take nature walks. You don’t have to be in the woods or mountains; a vacant field or park will do. Point out things, but without too much explanation let the children explore. If you find an ant hill, stop to watch. Ask what the ants are doing. Ask lots of questions to help the children figure things out. Take nature walks to the same place in all four seasons, & ask, “How have things changed?”
2. Teach children to distinguish nature from nonnature. On nature walks, ask them to find things that are not nature’s–cans, paper, litter. Point out that Man’s things are not as beautiful as those in nature; show that each little thing in nature is unique, while Man’s things are often mass-produced.
3. Paste up a collage from each season. Look through magazines together for pictures.
4. Watch & feed birds.
5. Have pets. Learn about them & how to take care of them.
Teach the joys of the use of nature.
1. Milk a cow, drink the milk & make butter. Gather eggs & cook them.
2. Have a nature meal, with honey, eggs, milk & home-baked bread.
3. While the question of “where things come from” is still on the children’s minds, place some of the following objects in a box. Set or hold it high enough that the children cannot see inside. Give each child a turn to reach in & take out one object & then try to tell where it comes from. Give what explanations are necessary. (Item examples: Carrot, banana, apple, bread, can of tuna, honey, milk, raisins, cereal, hot dog, cotton, woolen mittens, wood, glass, paper.)
4. Play a “riddle game” with the children. Say, “I’m thinking of something that is part of our wonderful World. I’ll tell you some things about it & then see if you can guess what it is that I’m thinking about. If you think you know, raise your hand, but don’t say anything until I say, `What is it?'”
* “I’m thinking of something that is green. It grows. Sometimes it is small. Sometimes it grows very tall. It has leaves. Sometimes fruit grows on it. What is it?” (A tree.)
* “I’m thinking of something that is up in the sky. It is white. We see it mostly at night. It is round. It shines & gives us light. What is it?” (The moon.)

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