(& possible shameless pitch, too, read on):
One of our Treeschoolers was super sad this week when she learned a favorite friend was out for the day. She had a little bit of a harder time settling into the session, which isn't typical for her, but eventually settled into a combination of time playing alone, time zipping in and out of other children's play, and time connecting with me (Miss Sally) a familiar and favorite adult.
When I touched base with her mama about this the next day, mama shared that they'd had a conversation about it. Apparently this Treeschooler shared, with a bright smile on her face, that she was "so sad because I missed my friend, but then I realized I had the whole forest to play with as a friend. And that's what we did, we played together the entire time!"
This gets to one of the core aims that drive my work (and the work of countless other nature-based educators): The nurturing and development of our future stewards of the earth. When you develop a relationship with the natural world – and learn to "play WITH the forest as a friend" – you grow up wanting to care for this planet and this world. The connection WITH nature is key here and different than some other ways our culture views the connection between humans and nature. This is a reciprocal relationship that develops; this little girl will likely grow up to identify as someone who cares a lot about the earth, but she will also grow up with a memory of what nature gave to her as a child and hopefully learn that nature will always support her, no matter her stage in life, should she continue to nurture the connection.
Witnessing this connection that deepens between our Treeschoolers and the forest (and all the other-than-human beings that live there) is such a joy, and also confirmation for this work. What we do as nature-educators often feels like a bold revolutionary act in these times of screens and technology, over-consumption, environmental degradation, and the overall excess and too-muchness in the developed world. Everyone benefits from the work of those who strive to care for this planet we call home (whether they are tiny Treeschoolers, or grown adults) and from anyone/everyone deepening their individual connections to the natural world. This is ultimately an act of "re-member-ing", while also being the very thing that will ensure our continued surviving and thriving on this planet.
If you work to connect children to nature, thank you! If you would like to support organizations that work hard to nurture this connection (there are many and they all need your support!), here are some links to some programs you can support in honor of Earth Day occurring this month on the 22nd, including SOL Forest School:
https://www.childrenandnature.org/ https://naturalstart.org/ https://eenm.org/ https://www.solforestschool.com/donations
From your Treeschooling friends at SOL, we hope you have a wonderful Earth Day month!
image credit: a drawing for SOL by former SOL Treeschooler, now Adventurer, Nora Plum