The other day I was reviewing some family feedback and one comment caught me by surprise:
“I was amazed about what I could see when I was asked to just look.” – Narayan, Pine Participant, age 9
Wow. Narayan’s words engaged me in a great learning moment. A reminder to look! And to listen, feel, smell and taste. I’d just gotten back from a walk with my dog, but I probably couldn’t tell you what colour the sky was, which direction the wind was coming from, if I could smell that subtle muskiness of fallen leaves. Could you?
It made me think of this story from our programs about the power of engaging all our senses and expanding our awareness to build connection with nature –
One week, a group of children visit a single tree of their choice every day. They engage all of their senses to become acquainted with the tree. At first, they take note of small and large details to identify the tree in their field guides, but they didn’t stop there because there is more to a tree’s story than its name.
The leaf looks like it has tiny little teeth. Wow, I like its yellow flowers – maybe I see some white too. Mmm it smells like honey, I love honey. I wonder who made those scratch marks on its trunk. I hope it didn’t hurt. They take out their journals and draw their observations. They use crayons to create rubbings from the fallen leaves to carefully investigate the veins.
Each day, they sit beside this tree, hugging it and observing new things. Their eyes dart up the trunk and they imagine what creatures call this tree home. They point out the perches for birds, bark for insects and spiders, holes for small mammals, and branches for mushrooms to grow upon. Students write down what community this tree supports, as they share a drink of water with the tree.
After spending ample time, the children have formed a connection based on their senses and associations. They begin to imagine the tree’s origin story, making up details as they go. They share this original story through a whimsical performance to their peers, and suddenly they see the trees in a whole new way. It’s as if a magic spell was cast upon the trees and they are now transformed into the magic they’ve always been. Trees are no longer a thing, but a someone, filled with features, a community, and stories to share.
By taking time to look and be aware, children begin to understand and feel. They build connections with places and living things, in similar ways as they do with other loved ones like family and friends. And like their human loved ones, these deep relationships form a foundation of support that they can draw on throughout their lives.
Every child deserves to meet a tree and be supported by its magic. Please help us make sure they have that chance by donating today. Your support will make it possible for all children to build connections that are critical to their health and happiness.
Thank you for helping us to deepen connections this giving season.