ĎOUT OF DOORS Ö PARKS AND TREESí
1.- PRESENTATION, DRAWINGS
FIRST PART: INTRODUCTION
PRESENTATION OF THE MANUAL - OBSERVATIONS ON THE DRAWINGS
Pedro JŠuregui Morales,
Coordinator, National Environmental Education Program
Itís said that people learn 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear, 80% of what they say, and 90% of what they do. Itís no mystery that we learn by doing, and we develop even that idea through experience. Field trips have been educational experiences since ancient times, and the same is true today. The sensory combines with play, intellect and emotions. Such learning shows up skills little developed in traditional schooling, such as survival, self-confidence, intuition, awareness, solidarity.
This handbook is an excellent aid to meaningful learning. It develops the field trip process systematically from start to finish. Also, as field trips take place in very different conditions, each school can adapt it to its needs.
Rod Walker MA, Founder-Director, CEAL Outdoor Education Centre.
Fellow of Ashoka Association for Social Innovation
While doing field trips with children and teachers over the years, Iíve seen objectives vary from short study visits to long expeditions, but all have one thing in common Ė the identity we share with our roots in the earth, an identity that brings reassurance, understanding and balance to peopleís view of the world and of themselves. Reaffirming this identity is the basic process I call ĎOutdoor Educationí. Internet now has many environmental education aids for local use. This book aims to complement them with a simple experiential methodology to use out of doors for strengthening childrenís understanding of natural principles and processes. It suggests activities, concepts and worksheet ideas.
I hope you find it useful enough to try some of its ideas with young people out of doors.
THE PURPOSE OF OUTDOOR EDUCATION
The purpose of outdoor education is to awaken the respect for the earth that has become forgotten by industrialized habits of consuming. This is not romanticism. Only practices of respect can help us develop the level of responsibility needed to recognize our role in earthís imbalances and muster the will to correct them.
Concepts by themselves, however clear, are insufficient. The problems are visible in the interplay of overpopulation, resource consumption and climate change. According to Lovelock, the major causes lie in what he calls Ďthree ĎCísí Ė Cars, Cattle and Chainsaws. Solutions lie in smaller economic systems of human scale and sustainability. We are only just beginning to realize that we need to consume less, not more. But our apparent inability to change has us on the verge of catastrophic collapse, both in human systems and in global climatic cycles. What is at stake is survival, not only of our civilization, but also of the natural systems underpinning it. In short, we face a real risk of extinction, a process which in fact has already begun. In moments of such unprecedented danger, where should leadership come from if not from the educators of our society?
Western education, so restricted to the intellect, has a duty to promote the value of respect for life in all its forms - a challenge at variance with our ongoing practices of exploitation.
Itís easy, though disturbing, to understand such ideas intellectually. But the will to act doesnít come from intellect Ö it comes from the heart. It is there, in the heart of every individual being, that contact with the earth does its most effective work. There is no better, more reliable tool for developing respect for the earth than through experiential outdoor education, practiced out of doors in the natural world.
EXPERIENCING NATURE WITH CHILDREN
Nature leaves impressions much deeper than the classroom can, above all in young people from the city. Nature teachers them of balance, diversity, cycles and the interrelationships inherent in lifeís processes. Nature shows them rhythms, sounds and aromas less aggressive than the cityís. Nature also helps them to distinguish between vital needs and additional desires created by consumer culture Ė and so makes it possible for them to value simplicity and balance as effective parameters for their personal living.
Outdoor learning with children requires different methods from classroom learning. Thereís more space, excitement, curiosity and distraction, and often more surprises. Itís natural that its greatest impact comes less from the delivery of information than from the simple experience of being outside, among plants and earth, puddles and clouds, birds and lizards, cold and warmth. Itís inevitable, and worth remembering, that the real educator is no longer the teacher. Itís the natural world, and the resonances it creates in young people. The teacher becomes the facilitator of the contact, the channeler of energies, and the absorber of the thousand surprises that each field trip brings Ö always alert to the possibilities of making use of them later in the school, classroom and the wider world. Outdoor education enhances understanding of the earth directly from experiencing concrete examples of natural phenomena rather than from books or IT. Its main purpose is to re-establish respect for the earth as the source and sustenance of life, not as a mere provider of material resources.
To achieve that purpose, we facilitate and share direct, significant contacts that children make with nature. Itís necessary to explore together, because the freshness of the morning dew cannot be understood by describing it - only by walking barefoot. Effective educators all understand the power of leading by example, which means the sharing of our experiences should become a rule. This experiential sharing motivates children strongly to discover with us, and then continue discovering in an ongoing, mentor-supported process they will spontaneously continue. The repetition of discovery experiences also produces emotional awareness with time, as well as useful information about the world and about oneself. The acquisition of both of these will vary subjectively from child to child. In time, maturing earth awareness provides a personal means of evaluating the often questionable information that young people receive. Assessing such validity based on natural principles that have been understood by experience, is an important key to orienting personal life choices that are authentically their own..
The principle understanding we move towards together is one of identity - that the life of nature and our human life are actually the same life - one single network of great complexity, held together by strands and knots all mutually connected. There are no exceptions, there are no separations in the network. It is in the very nature of such education to be inter-disciplinary, because it is a reflection of the unity of life itself.
Outdoor education is characterized by two main unifying threads. it is naturally:
1. EXPERIENTIAL. This is why itís capable of producing such profound effects on people. The more direct, uncomplicated and long-lasting the contact with the earth, the greater these effects will be.
2. INTEGRATED. The outdoor context Ė the natural world - is naturally holistic. It integrates because itís an inexhaustible example of interdependence. The innumerable interrelationships it manifests make it ideally suited to provide links between Ďsubjectsí traditionally seen in school as separate.
Outdoor education presents some challenges to facilitators:
Adapting structured teaching habits to new, unfamiliar ways of working is a useful exercise in flexibility.
2. Freedom and Safety:
Giving children greater freedom (within a framework of sufficient safety) is a task requiring patience, creativity, resources and systemic support from within the school system.
3. Rapid Changes:
Natureís surprises often demand rapid modification of any work plan.
4. Accompanying Adults:
Ratio of adults to children should be at least twice that of the classroom - a minimum of 1:15. Here there is an issue of resources.
A GRADUAL PROCESS
The process of outdoor learning is summarized by Joseph Cornell in four stages: awakening enthusiasm, concentrating attention, directing an experience and sharing the inspiration from it. What this suggests is a gradual progression rather than single experiences - especially in developing such skills as personal and group safety awareness, collective silences and effective communication in large groups. It becomes necessary, then, to prepare children in such skills in school, as tools for using later out of doors. Itís ideal to begin close by in familiar places like the school yard or nearby public space. This is why weíve focused this book on Parks and Trees, because most schools can find some access to both no matter where they are.
PRESENTATION OF THE HANDBOOK
SEQUENCE AND LANGUAGE
The book delivers a chronological presentation of the different stages of an imaginary field trip, from its preparation through to its completion. Each stage includes several sample activities; it would be impractical to include all of them in one single outing, and there are very many others that can be added. The whole book is intended to be used by adults, including the three central chapters (5 to 7) dealing with the field activities themselves. These three chapters and their worksheets have been written in language simple enough to give teachers examples of ways of sharing an approach to a natural area with children. Adapting the ideas to a specific environment is left to the teachersí own experience and areas of interest.
THE ROLE OF THE UNANSWERED QUESTION
You may notice the abundance of questions with no answers. While itís always necessary for teachers to provide tools and pointers as aids to finding information, information should not be the primary purpose of the introductory outdoor experience. Itís well known how valuable it is for children to discover knowledge independently instead of imbibing it ready-made. The process of discovery is an intellectual adventure that is stimulating. The effort it involves develops the agility and curiosity necessary to form hypotheses independently and come to terms with unknown phenomena. Itís an interesting experience as a teacher to limit a dayís interaction with students, as far as possible, to the use of open-ended questions.
THE DRAWINGS - Note from artist VIV MACADAM, MA, PGCSE.
Viv was author and illustrator of the well-known and highly valued Field Guide to the CaŮi Forest Sanctuary, Pucůn,
Southern Chile, and the Introductory Teachers' Manual 'Discovering Our Forest'. In her own words,
"The sensitivity with which we draw animals and plants relates directly to the affective bond that children form as they observe nature in the field. If we hope to have them get to know their surroundings, and from that knowledge develop the affection to care for nature, then letís share our wonder at the creative diversity of each form of life, so incredibly well-adapted for survival. This wonder is an integral part of the drawings Iíve included with the text, and Iíd like to hope it may prove infectious to the children. In any case, please use the drawings as much as possible, and also practice drawing themes including details from nature, large or small, when out of doors."