Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Developing a Lasting Sense of Wonder With Children by Emily Hall

"I wanted not so much to watch Hannah's garden grow as to watch her watch it grow."-Michael P.  Branch

                There is a patch of chamomile growing near a place that the children love to call The Troll Bridge. The first year I taught Forest Kindergarten, the children and I pulled up the grass and planted the little seeds beneath the soil in May, then watched the chamomile sprout and grow around an anthill nearby. The crumbs from our snack were harvested by the busy ants as they fell to the ground. I've watched the chamomile grow taller as the children play around me. It's fun to tell the story of the little patch of chamomile and pour a little bit from our water bottles on the garden when there are weeks without rain.  Wonder comes naturally to the children, but it does not always come naturally to adults as we get caught up in the hard work involved in raising young ones. Simple gardens and sharing the work together helps build a  sense of wonder and mystery for the adult, a place for adult and child to share the sensory experience of digging, watering, and observing, putting the garden to sleep with leaves in the fall, then watching Grandmother Winter cover it in snow. Each Winter, I love to tell a story about Grandmother Winter sitting in the clouds with her knitting needles, knitting blankets of snow for the earth. The child does not have to develop a sense of wonder, but his focused attention on a story becomes stronger when the adult values and shares his awe.
                Forest Fridays in the Woodland Room are a fun day to go and visit the fallen trees that the children and I call Troll Homes. The story goes that a young boy once pointed at a fallen tree with its exposed roots and rocks and said "Miss Emily, a troll lives there!" The word troll itself comes from Lapland, and means something from the otherworld. A sense of shared beauty and mystery can be built by imagining the mythical creatures that might dwell in our favorite places in the woods. Watching silent as children watch the forest and discover it in their own way keeps stress from building up and shutting off the  grown-up's  sense of delight. Snowy troll homes where ice stalagtites and stalagmites grow from the roots of the tree are what I'm hoping for this winter. Last winter the river mermaids made little ice chandeliers to dangle over the riverbank and we had great fun telling stories about them. I hope to hear about the stories you share about nature as families at parent teacher conferences. Happy Winter from Forest Kindergarten and the Woodland Suite!

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