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Rediscovering Your Sense of Wonder

Extreme Enrichment Volume One

Stacey Susinno, Director of Extreme STEAM Science Kids at Park Shore

Fall might be the most dramatic time of year. The flowers are rioting, the bees are raging against the dying of the light, the butterflies are in a rush to get somewhere and the leaves are breaking up with their trees. What I see however, is science all around. I’m a mom, science teacher and a geek. One of the best pop-culture fads these days is that science is cool. I’m pretty sure it’s because kids love the drama in science. Start talking about the dinosaur extinction around a few children and you will see that it’s true.

Rachel Carson said it best, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” I do believe that children can re-teach us how to see the world. Have you ever seen a child find a butterfly egg for the first time? Watching the child’s wonder is as eye-opening for the adult as finding the egg is for the child. Getting children involved as active participants is the best way to nurture responsible stewards of our home: shared by 7.4 billion people and about 9 million species (that we know about).

We have seen studies come out recently, linking the lack of outside play to the rise in anxiety in our youth. While, admittedly, I have not examined the studies for validity (and of course, I would never promote going outside as a substitution for professional help), I can see how not making any decisions for yourself can be thwarting. When we were kids, we rode the trails on our bikes, fished, walked to the beach, searched for tadpoles, went berry picking and chased ducks around. We were mini scientists, without even knowing it. ‘What will happen if we try to dig to China”? “What’s this weird layer of clay?” “Oh look, now we have clay.” “What can we build with it?” “ What happens if I leave it outside?” Today our kids are really good at navigating maps, on video games with virtual guns.

Yes. Even my own kids are obsessed with Fortnite. I am not judging. I may, in fact, know all of the dances. I respect that kids need some downtime and know that many of them use video games to relax and connect with buddies in the safety of their own homes. However, I’m not sure that they need to be connected to one another 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. One thing that kids don’t do well with, but seem to find daily, is drama with peers. When we were kids, we could turn the drama off. At 3:00 if you didn’t “Call someone out at Mr. Bagel” you went home and it was over for the day. Maybe someone would call and you could talk about it, but I know with 3 sisters and Dad running a business, we had a strict 5 minute phone policy. Yup, this was even before call waiting. How did we survive? We went outside. Our only rule was to be back in time for dinner on the table with the first light of the streetlamp. We didn’t have our parents in our hand to make decisions for us. When we came back inside with clearer heads, the school drama didn’t seem so big.

 

Outside, we watched Nature’s drama. We felt smaller but so significant to the flowers, and the bees. We identified with the butterfly’s need for flight and empathized with the falling leaves. We asked questions. We made decisions. We collected data, not even realizing we were doing so. We drew conclusions. And you know what? We were pretty responsible about doing it. Our parents words didn’t come over a screen but their voices were always in our heads.

Life seemed simpler then. We had time to eat dinner together. It seemed safer outside. Smaller. I’m personally terrified to let my children roam free, and my youngest is 17. But I’ve been out there and I promise you, the woods are still as fascinating as they were when we were kids. Our kids need to know them like we did! What if, instead of texting your child, you were exploring with them? I know. It isn’t cool to hang out with your parents. Go to a different town. I promise, once you’re out of the potential sighting zone, your teen will become your child again. Use that phone that seems to be grafted to their hand to do science. Watch as they ask the questions, make the decisions, lose the fear of being outside, start to enjoy your company and maybe even forget Fortnite for a few minutes. You might even get them to tell you why they are identifying with the butterfly.

Don’t know where and how to start? Look for future posts about Extreme Enrichment ideas in which I will give you ideas and resources to start your wilderness journey with your children. In the meanwhile, think about it. I know it’s hard for us too (with work drama following us in our phones 24/7) to stop and smell the roses.