One of the best benefits of forest school is knowledge of nature. We sometimes think that kids will automatically understand night and day, seasons, plants, and animals, but they need to truly experience these things in ways that are meaningful to them in order to connect.
Sounds good right? But in practice, really grabbing hold of a child’s attention, and turning curiosity into passion can be tough!
Out one day, a boy sees a bug, a BIG bug! Excitedly he runs to his mother. “Come and see what I found!”, he tells her. Together they run to the place of the bug, and there it is, gracefully perched on a slim branch.
“It’s a preying mantis,” says the mother.
“Oh,” says the boy, and he runs off.
When a child is curious about something, our first inclination is to name it. We think it must be important to know what that something is. But as in the story above, once we name the object of curiosity, the child’s interest is lost. I want to invite you to try it different way. Instead of labeling the object, ask a question. By asking questions, we keep the child’s interest, fueling their curoisity.
Out one day, a boy sees a bug, a BIG bug! Excitedly he runs to his mother. “Come and see what I found,” he tells her. Together they run to the place of the bug, and there it is, gracefully perched on a slim branch.
“Wow, look what you found!” says the mother, “What do think it is?”
“I don’t know,” says the boy, “A spider.”
“Hmm, how many legs does it have?”
“I think I remember that spiders have eight legs, but insects have six.”
“Maybe it’s an insect!” shouts the boy happily, and off he runs shouting, “I found an insect, I found an insect!”
In the second story, mom recognized and affirmed the boys interest in the bug, then used leading questions to open a dialogue about it. She introduced a little academic info into the mix to give a clue that lead the boy to his own conclusion.
When we just give the answer right away in the form of a name, we smush the child’s own intrinsic desire for knowledge. Another boy was very excited about a rare bird he had spotted, when asked how he knew he had found that bird, he replied, “because the teacher said so.”
Scott Sampson wrote in his book, How to Raise a Wild Child, about the “Sage on the Stage” vs. the “Guide Beside”. The Sage is preoccupied with labeling everything they see, they may feel strongly about knowing what a thing is called. After all it does seem smart to give an epithet, like Coopers Hawk, but if we are not paying attention to that creatures features, habits, and lifestyle, all we know is it’s name.
At Worldmind, we practice the second approach. When your student makes a discovery, instead of giving it name and rattling off all the facts, like the Sage, try asking leading questions. Aim for one question for every year of your child’s age. Your kiddo’s conclusions will delight and amaze you.
It is likely that you guys will never make it to the correct answer to your questions, and that’s ok! The goal is to help your kiddo notice details about their object of interest, to maximize the amount of time spent interacting with it, and to ensure they trust their own intuitive, deductive process.