Tag Archive | nature,

The earth is more important than maths and grammar

Bread in the making!

Pulling out of London on the train recently I love to look upon the back gardens. Behind the terraced streets these little green oases must offer some much needed sanctuary to the wildlife (never mind the humans)!

From the centre of the city, where the soaring icons, office towers and blocks of flats butt up against each other without a scrap of space between, we begin to pass these tiny, tatty back gardens where people are making such a champion effort to provide that sanctuary with what little space they have. And even those rammed in high-rise blocks boast boxes and planters and gardens on rooftops in gallant attempts to create a little natural space where nature can flourish among places covered in concrete. Sometimes it does it on its own and a buddleia protrudes from a wall and weeds grow on sidings. But many Londoners are giving it a helping hand, creating spaces to invite insects, birds and critters we’ll never see to drop in.

When I see these awesome attempts to give nature a welcome I am filled with awe and wonder. And immediately stop taking for granted the abundance of natural space and greenery I have round me where I live now. I grew up in a top storey flat in London so I know what it’s like to be concreted in. I know how precious these few natural oases are. We didn’t have one!

I’m also thinking about the children who live without them now. About the generations of children who never experience countryside. And how they will ever be able to understand the significance of nature and natural science.

From the tiniest miniscule organism, through all the plants and animals, to the largest oldest tree everything has importance in the ecology of the planet. Everything needs a place. And we depend upon it all for our food, for our air, for our survival and that of the planet. And I worry that those children with shuttered, sheltered existences will never have the opportunity to know anything different, will never truly understand that significance, being so far removed from it on their pavement journeys between home and school and their virtual lives of indoor entertainment.

Surely this knowledge and experience is far more essential to an education, will have far more impact on a future, than times tables and grammar? It is imperative. But as kids follow academic curriculum and obedience to indoor culture I wonder how nature will make its impact known.

So I urge all families to help your kids understand the ecology of the earth that is battened down beneath that concrete, understand that it is still what everyone needs for their survival wherever they live, whether they have contact with it or not. Cities and towns have places to go to get down to the earth, they have planters and gardens and parks, and even farms, where that understanding can begin. And failing that you can simply stand in the supermarket by the fruit and veg and ask the question; where does all this come from and what aspects of nature do we depend upon to get it here, from the bees that pollinate, to the insects and leaf matter which make the soil, the animals that fertilise it, to the workers who make it possible. That question will take you on a journey.

The earth may not be under your feet as it is now under mine, but it is just as essential to your life. And it’s essential to every child’s education that they understand that!

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Using nature to talk about mortality with kids

I wonder how the little Guillemot is? 

I think it was a guillemot anyway. It was standing forlornly at the edge of the water so still I thought it was an upstanding stone when I first caught sight of it in the distance. But as I walked nearer I realised it was a little bird. It was bedraggled and saturated and appeared to be shivering.

I guessed it had probably got exhausted and waterlogged. But had managed to come ashore with the tide.

What to do?

Leave it to recover in calm and solitude, or take it somewhere? The stress of being captured can often create further injury or cause them to die of shock anyway.

It was always a dilemma when we found exhausted or injured wild things. They rarely survived as a result of our attentions but the children always wanted to take them home and cosset and cuddle them back to health as we did them! None of which does wild things any good usually but it’s very hard to explain that to a child.

Nestlings were the worst. The children were adamant that they could save them with human ministrations, not understanding that most of them wouldn’t make it – human comforts are rarely what they need.

Living in the country animal fatalities were regularly witnessed. Another corpse in the tideline or a remnant of a fox’s meal, as well as farming, were opportunities for study and discussion and also conversations about the natural course of life.

These events, and the passing of pets, are a good opportunity to talk to kids about these difficult issues – although not difficult really if you make them a natural part of examining life.

More difficult when they’re not talked about and come as a terrible shock.

Mortality is usually conveniently hidden away like a taboo. But it is far better that it is confronted honestly, that children understand about the cycle of life, that we are sad and bereft for some time after losing someone or something, and that this passes, new aspects of life flood in and make us feel better and we survive and move forward.

Children are very matter-of-fact. They deal far better with honest answers than with cover ups. They see through those. They can only trust us if they know we’re honest. That way they’ll believe us when we say that we can recover from grief and loss, rather than thinking this is just another grown up lie.

The loss of pets or things in the wild and natural world provide good opportunities for us to talk about both the living and the passing of life, not in a morbid way. But in a matter-of-fact way with the children. And we shouldn’t shy away from it.

Had little children been with me when I saw the guillemot they would no doubt have wanted to do something about it. But I thought it best to leave it to find itself somewhere quiet to recover as it looked reasonable robust. After I’d had a good look at it – a rare treat to be so close.

But it popped into my mind occasionally throughout the day as I wondered about its fate.

Small world ignorance

You’re walking along looking at nature and what do you see? flytipping 004

Two old sofas, a collection of cushions and a mattress. Nice!

I can never comprehend the mentality of people who do this. Who drive out to rural places and offload their unwanted junk.

Nothing identifies an uneducated ignorance more than this kind of behaviour.

Because it is ignorance. And a lack of the sort of education I meant when I said in the blog called ‘Another approach to Learning’ that education is only valuable if it’s transferable to living in responsible ways. Being educated to do that is far more valuable than any grades or GCSEs.

Children need to be educated about the natural world, how relate to it, to understand the bigger picture, understand our responsibility towards and dependency on that wider world, how that world is the essence of all that we have and all that we need for survival both personally and as a species.

Instead we seem to be perpetuating a mentality of small world selfishness; like how to get rid of junk from your own patch and sod everyone else.

Another illustration of this small minded ignorance was on the news; plant theft. Seems a bit bizarre that crimes against nature are newsworthy. But they are and the Sunday papers carried a piece about another one; stealing birds eggs.

These crimes are newsworthy because the balance and perpetuation of all species is important; it’s vital work that develops our knowledge of our world and the ecological cycles within it.

We are all dependent on the whole of the ecological balance and I would say that our children’s understanding of that is even more important than maths and English really. Our lives and survival depend upon it. But it is very easy to forget that, cushioned as so many are from the realities of nature’s world.

So surely that is exactly the reason why education about the natural world is even more essential.

Educating our children about ecological matters, about the impact humans have upon them, how we can reduce our footprint and maintain a balance between all living organisms, of which we are only one, is the responsibility of us all.

Preparing our sweet earth for next year's food

Preparing our sweet earth for next year’s food

Nature needs to be more than a walk in the park or a spider removed from kids’ lives. It’s the foundation of science and needs to be fundamental to all their learning and develop understanding that it is from nature that our lives spring, our food springs, our houses and our cities spring, where everything we own comes from. We are only one small part of that huge natural picture. One tiny, insignificant and humble part really and dependent on it for our life.

There is no understating our responsibility towards educating our children in that understanding, to instil nothing less than reverence and respect for nature and her cycles. To make sure that even though their worlds might be small, their mentality about it isn’t.

So get the kids out in nature at every opportunity, engage and learn as much as you can, then snuggle up and watch something like Autumnwatch.

And even if you don’t believe in rules in your parenting there’s s simple one that’s worth them knowing;

‘Take nothing from nature except photos and memories. Leave nothing other than footprints. Kill nothing other than time’!

I wish the wretched Fly Tippers who’d committed this awful crime had the mentality to understand why that’s so important!

And here’s a nicer view of nature – this year’s food happily harvested – to finish with.

dslr-cornfields patterns 015