Environmental education has emphasized children as future environmental stewards and has assumed that children's outdoor play and joyful time in nature (Chawla, 1998, 1999; Hagglund and Samuelsson, 2009; Rice and Torquati, 2013; McClain and Vandermaas-Peeler, 2016) and that these dispositions will encourage children to become adults who are capable of nurturing and taking care of nature (Chawla, 1998, 1999, 2009; Wells and Lekies, 2006; McClain and Vandermaas Peeler, 2016; Hoover, 2021).
There are numerous caterpillars hanging onto the threads at the back field. The interesting part is when we find a number of little hitchhikers on our clothing. We are not really aware of all the larvae busily feeding high up in the trees, but when they are hanging in front of our faces or climbing up our arm, we start to take notice.
Elie is observed to pay a close attention to a tiny, greenish caterpillar crawling on the leaf. Her eyes carefully follow the movement of the caterpillar.
Felix joins Elie in observing the caterpillar's movement on the leaf. Both of them exchange silent conversations throughout in sharing their wonderings.
This ability to observe the world around us is an important initial skill in the early years that helps us find and organize patterns in the observed natural world. Initially, we start observing using multiple senses simultaneously - sight, sound, smell, touch, taste - and gradually, step by step develop simple explanations of observations and complex interventions of the world around us.
Our observations and investigations of the local environment enable us to identify and answer questions that trigger further curiosity. The question here is how do we acquire this observational skill, by nature or nurture?
Observational skills are more than 'just looking' at things or 'just seeing' things. Observation sometimes can be very specific, developed within a disciplinary framework, such as learning how to recognize bird songs, silhouettes and other patterns.
Starting from our spontaneous concepts, mostly through our everyday moments, our observational skills are gradually refined and replaced by scientific concepts. For instance, on the above experience, Arjun and George observe that not all dry leaves can float over a period of time although they are light in terms of weight. From our spontaneous experiences, our observations feed us with more selective explanations.
Through an invitation to observe the many shapes around us , Felix and George focus their abilities to carefully nurture their perspectives of letter U on the tree branches.
Progression from everyday (nature) to scientific (nurture) skills comes through by us providing:
When friends, George and Elie, voice our their concerning observations on one of the illustrative pages of "If I Ran the Rain Forest" by Dr. Seuss, we notice this is an opportune time to delve into our emerging shared understanding on the environmental stewardship.
The beginning part of the story explicitly illustrates the significance of trees as 'homes' for living creatures around us. When comes to this page, we ask each friend to come up with own views.
"Please do not cut the trees!", Elie mentions.
"Save the trees!", George exclaims.
"Let's listen to the sound!"
"Where does the wood come from?"
We choose to leave our pondering mind sit somewhere since not every question has to be answered immediately.
Reflecting on such experiences helps us to understand what matters to us and helps us to align our behaviors with our values; this, in turn, promotes our gratitude toward things around us which have cared for us.
'In that earliest childhood, we get those invisible glasses through which we look at the world all our lives, and these glasses color our views.'
Happy Thanksgiving! May we be forever grateful!
Children & Friends.
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