Kai runs out of the forest, excitement bulging at the seams. “Guess what Née Née (aka me, Renée), I just saw a heron. He was 3 feet away from me and I could touch it.” I mean, how amazing is that? Setting the ethics of touching wildlife aside, this intimate encounter sprouted a true sense of wonder and joy causing a 9-year old boy to sparkle like a disco ball. Not only did he benefit from the experience but so did the rest of us. Curiosities sparked we all started to ask questions regarding nesting locations, bird size, and brood number. A week later Anika shared that she had found a large bird skeleton and feathers. As we went to investigate further, we concluded that it belonged to a heron but as the spinal cord was fully intact, it had likely died of natural causes. By no means do we claim to be fowl forensics experts but the fact that the kids were trying to make inferences based on the available information sent a gleeful shiver up my spine. Who needs a rope, Mr Green and a kitchen to make educated deductions when you have a swamp full of mysteries to unravel?
For hunting and gathering communities, storytelling is essential to survival. It is an opportunity to exchange experiences, to add to the collective knowledge base and to learn as a community. Knowing the location of a bear den or hearing that the salmon run has begun, are valuable pieces of information for those that depend on these things for survival. Sharing the story of your day also affirms the journey, celebrates curiosity, and offers space to be heard and validated. As the parent and mentor, it is a time to listen closely, to notice what captures your child’s attention. It is a time to ask questions to help them dive deeper into the things that stood out for them. Upon doing this, you are meeting the kids where they are at, the edge of their curiosity. The Art of Questioning will be addressed further in a later blog, but ultimately seek to use their story as a gateway for further learning. How the story of the day is shared can be done in many ways: in circle formation with a talking stick, popcorn style, or while walking back home.
In terms of the kids’ heron experiences, having access to a couple of bird books was invaluable. In addition to answering some of our questions, Kai, who is obsessed by numbers, stuck his nose in it immediately, deciphering which bird was the largest, lived the longest, ate the most, etc. But he also began to draw some of the birds he found in the guide, using a different skill set to embody the information. Field guides are essential components for developing nature connection, resources to keep the spark of curiosity lit. Here are some of my faves below.
In my next blog, I will share some songs celebrating nature, wildness and gratitude. Stay tuned!