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A Sense of Wonder

A Sense of Wonder
By Wendy Priesnitz

“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder … so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years.” ~Rachel Carson

Wonder is the art of observing and asking questions. Your child comes across a spider web and you pause together to look at the web. I wonder what that web is made of? Why do spiders make webs? How long does it take to make a web? How does a spider drink? What happens to the web when it rains? Wonder helps to humble us with the knowledge that there is always more to learn. And Nature is the best place to develop our sense of wonder. Unfortunately, many children today are not being mentored into knowing and appreciating the natural world.

Many parents are intimidated about sharing Nature with their children because they are worried that they won’t know the answers to their children’s questions. But one of the benefits of life learning is that we get to learn alongside our children. When you and your child walk in Nature, take along a field guide or two, as well as a camera and a notebook. This will allow you both to gather information and find the answers later in a book or on the Internet. That way, you’ll be mentoring self-directed learning as well as helping your child discover Nature.

Nature is everywhere, and experiencing it – either alone or with a child – can be as simple as taking a walk. The natural spaces within walking distance of our homes are filled with any number of plants and animals that we can enjoy with our children.

Play tag. Pick dandelions. Blow their seeds away. Close your eyes and identify the sounds around you. Lie on the grass and watch the clouds. “Become” a tree. Or a butterfly. Sit down under a real tree and read a favorite story. Observe a spider building a web.

As adults, we need to make the time to develop our own Nature connection and to nurture our own sense of wonder, in order to share that with our children. It may be challenging to make it a priority, but in the joy of Nature lies the motivation to live more lightly and to protect the Earth. And that is something worth passing on to our children.

At the same time, we can learn from our children – how to wonder, how to dream, how to question. As poet W.B. Yeats put it, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” So get out in Nature with your child and you’ll discover many wonderful things together.

Learn More

Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell (Dawn Publications, 1998)

The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv (Updated version, Algonquin Books, 2008)

Childhood and Nature by David Sobel (Stenhouse Publishers, 2008)

Into the Field: A Guide to Locally Focused Teaching by Clare Walker Leslie (Orion Society, 2005)

I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature by Jennifer Ward (Roost Books, 2008)

It’s a Jungle Out There! 52 Nature Adventures for City Kids by Jennifer Ward (Shambhala Publications, 2011)

Wendy Priesnitz is the founding editor of Life Learning Magazine, the author of 13 books, and the mother of two adult daughters who learned without school and have retained their sense of wonder.

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