In the dictionary, exploration is defined as the act of traveling in or through an unfamiliar area in order to learn about it. Truly many lessons can be prepared and shared in relation to nature and the garden, yet, exploration has it's place as well. The absolute freedom and release to roam without directed or dictation- that is the essence of our exploration.
Exploration was the first introduction my children had with nature; in formal gardens, home gardens, and the great woods. As infants, I carried them on walks through the beautiful trees resting near ponds and creaks or sat them nearby our home gardens while weeding the flower beds and planting the vegetable plots. The outdoors can calm a fussy baby and engage a cranky toddler as they gaze at color and contrast; see the butterflies and hear the call of a bird. Once mobile, exploration come easily as fresh curiosity is allowed to be satisfied.
As older children, we enjoyed strolls through nature reserves and visits to area forests or master garden lots. This gave them greater exposure to continue stirring those inner questions and curiosities. Opportunities came for them to plant in our own yard and seek information from various resources as they pondered their visits. Picnics were had in the midst of native trees after visiting a butterfly museum filled with amazing living habitats. Freedom to explore and make requests for further exploration stirs the older child as they grown in their own wisdom and experience.
Teens need the opportunity for exploration as well. Often I struggled with the strong desire to 'teach' or 'lead' as we hiked, planted or planned, but letting go the reigns gave them courage to press on and seek for themselves. At this age, they planned many of our outings as well as designed gardens at our home placing close at hand the beauty of nature for their own quiet place to be. To sit beneath a tree on a hike, with a rod in a boat, or even stroll the vegetable garden in absolute quiet simplicity brings a rest and comfort not found anywhere else.
In this world of violence, over stimulation, and media driven entertainment our children- our adults as well- need the unhindered opportunity to explore the beauty and wonder of nature. It doesn't have to be complicated or even all day, it simply needs to be available and repeated to refresh ourselves and renew our sense of being.