Attention is the Beginning of Devotion

From Upstream by Mary Oliver

When you read the news online or in the papers or listen to a news broadcast, environmental issues are sure to come up. In September Pope Francis addressed the United Nations General Assembly entreating the member countries to stop abusing the environment. Later in the fall, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its Fifth Assessment of environmental risks and impacts. We hear about the pollution of water supplies in Flint, Michigan, and landfills are challenged to manage huge amounts of trash and waste. Clearly our children will be the stewards of the environment as they grow to adulthood.

“Environmental literacy” is part of professional development forums at NAIS, AISNE and other educational gatherings. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner has added an eighth area of ability to his profile of “multiple intelligences”, which he calls “naturalist intelligence” meaning “nature smart.” As educators we have a responsibility to include environmental learning in our curriculum.

There are three main approaches we use in Derby’s Primary and Lower School classrooms when planning curriculum for environmental studies. Fortunately, these first steps are very easy to accomplish at home as well!

  1. The LOVE Approach: Get outdoors and enjoy the opportunities for play, investigation and discovery! Foster appreciation of the natural world. Wander. Wonder. Use your senses to enjoy nature.
  2. The KNOW Approach: Involve children in activities that extend their knowledge of the environment. Sign up for special programs or camps and visit our wonderful local museums. Read!
  3. The DO Approach: In simple and concrete ways increase children’s awareness of nature by planting a garden, recording plant growth and life cycle, feeding the birds, or hunting for spiders and insects. Increase children’s awareness of environmental problems by involving them in conservation and recycling. Turn off those lights. Recycle plastic containers, glass bottles and jars, and newspapers. Create art projects by reusing “beautiful junque” (cardboard, milk caps, boxes, tubes, etc.).

The recent Teach-In with Jon Belber from Holly Hill Farm wrapped these three approaches into one horticultural project. The first, second and third graders planted vegetable seeds and seedlings in the Sadlon School Garden, and the students will continue to water and monitor these plants. Not to be left out of environmental activities, the Kindergarten will visit Holly Hill Farm and Weir River Farm in May. Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten children will learn about tidal pool creatures when visited by educators from the New England Aquarium. The love, know, do approach builds positive attitudes toward the environment and nurtures a mindset of personal responsibility and stewardship.

Nature mentor Scott Sampson writes, “Individuals who act on behalf of the environment or some other cause, do so because of a blended kind of knowing that includes head and heart.” Whether you are a woodlands hiker or a backyard bird watcher, a sandbox digger or a novice gardener, the natural world has transformative power. As we carry out Derby’s mission and motto to “Improve Both Mind and Heart”, let us all be sure that the simple act of getting outdoors for recreation, exploration, observation – work and play – are part of school and family experiences.

If environmental consciousness is important to you and of importance to your family, I recommended the following books.

How to Raise A Wild Child ~ The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature
By Scott D. Sampson

Last Child in the Woods ~ Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder
By Richard Louv

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One Response to Attention is the Beginning of Devotion

  1. Pam Sharpe says:

    Dear Polly,
    Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do as our garden leader and mentor! We will miss you tremendously, but we promise to honor your legacy and make you proud for years to come.

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