Teaching Children about Nature

Thursday is our Moonbeams and Stardust-the nature class-Day. My two and a half year old girl puts on her “activity pants” and dashes out to the car. Once a week, our shoes get dirty and our faces get sunburn. Over the past two months we are taking a toddler step to get to know the mountain of Sierra Madra. Thanks to the guidance of Hop and Jessica, who have been leading Panther Ridge Farm’s Outdoor School, I am able to fulfill one of my goals as a parent: to engender a love of nature in my children.

Nature BracletUnlike many other toddlers I have seen around, mine does not usually like to be outdoors. On our first day to the class, when I told her with excitement that we were finally going to the mountain she had been talking about, she started worrying about bears. Soon she was drowning in her own tears. For the next two hours she wailed, “I don’t want to go to the mountain.” I had to reassure her again and again that bears don’t come out where the people are, but no words of mine could carb her fears. Looking back at the incident now, I think she feared the unknown, since we only looked at the mountain from a far, and she knew the bear and tigers live in the mountain.

In the next two months from the first day of Moonbeams and Stardust, my daughter has learned of how mountain smells and looks like. She always wanted to be held at first, but she walked more and more as the class went on. After seeing other kids playing with bugs, she touched a worm with her finger. Even I became braver and touched a rolly polly for the first time . Vines and seedpods became her new toys. One of my favorite memory was on a day at a creek when she trudged through water in her tennis shoes, wearing a big smile.

As she familiarized herself with the environment, she also started playing with other children in the class. I was simply delighted to see her giving a rock she found to another girl. She shared her apples with other kids in the class (even though I had to bribe her with a banana at first.) The generosity of Sierra Madre was slowing seeping into a little child’s heart.

Hop and Jessica have also taught me about relating to our environment and the community as well. During the class we sometimes take a leaf off a bush or a tree to smell and collect in the nature journal. Hop said we can also say thank you to the Black Sage bush as we take a sample. He said Black Sage was considered a sacred plant to the native Americans. He also teaches parents and children about composting, which in my opinion is the most sensible way to discard food waste. I hope one day, I will be able to set up a compost system in our house as well. Jessica is inspiring with her ingenuitive recipes using herbs from her garden and homemade flours of different kinds of grains, such as buckwheat and Taff. The snack time, prepared by Jessica and Hop is the highlight of the day for me and my girl.

In two months or so we are moving to Geneva. It already makes me sad that we have to part with such nice and resourceful people we met through the outdoor school. Hopefully we will meet likeminded people with whom we can share what Swiss mountains and lakes and offer. Nonetheless we can first be the people with whom we want to befriend.


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