Friday, October 4, 2013

Children in the Garden: Discovery

     Unfettered exploration often opens children's minds to question their surroundings. Time in a garden gives us time to consider the name, nature, and behaviors of the living things found there. A time of discovery can be independent and self directed, or guided and assisted- sometimes overlapping each other as the child expands his awareness of his surroundings.
     Consider with me, strolling through the garden. Movement catches the eye as down on our knees we gaze under the salvia. Rusting the leaves, turning over the wood chips we spot a green lizard. Watching we discover his behaviors, movement, the way he bulges out his throat. Intrigued, we make note of his eyes, ability to jump from one stalk to another.
     Here we have just experienced a self directed, independent time of discovery. Curiosity will lead to questions only answered through research. Independent discovery gives a child the freedom to look and question on his own and seeking the answers to his questions. It may be the curious design of a leaf, the longing to know the name of his favorite tree, or a desire to understand the break down of organic matter to nourish the soil. Either way, a self directed discovery is perfect for children with a natural curiosity needing the freedom to roam and to guild his own course of knowledge.
       Riding to the local natural forest, the conversation turns to various aspects of the trip. Each child on the trip is encouraged to find one thing they have not seen before, or something they are unfamiliar/not knowledgeable about. During a lake side fishing, this beautiful bird is seen. A picture taken will give reference when they arrive home where resources will be searched to discover the nature, habit, and name of this unique creature.
       Here is one example of directed discovery. The adult could also have assigned an element from nature to be found by each child or the group collectively. My children and students generally enjoyed the freedom to search a new discovery, but did well with assigned finds. On occasion we searched for things they had read or encountered I study. Nature journals and disposable cameras offer creative documentation and a record of their finds. Not every child enjoys journaling; our farm by loved discovery and learning, but never found pleasure in journaling it.
       Discover in the garden can be the basic home garden, an arboretum, or a natural park. The effort, time put into the activity can be as detailed or relaxed as suits your family. For me, discovery was something I enjoyed as well- giving us opportunity to learn together, in turn, leading by example. If nature and garden time is new to your family or students then relax and let it flow- resistance may come at first, but in time they will warm and settle in.
       Let's put on our comfortable shoes, grab some water and spend some time with the living things.

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