Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kim's Reflections on Wild Play

I learned a lot, yesterday, from David Sobel and the teachers and community educators who attended the afternoon workshop.  I'm still processing -- and processing the action postcards, which I'll report on in a couple of weeks.

Some highlights:

Knowledge without love will not stick. But if love comes first, knowledge is sure to follow.  -- John Burroughs

Sobel used this quote as the backbone of his workshop thesis -- too much information is packaged for kids but really is meant for adults (or isn't useful at all) and pushes kids toward either knowing facts in a totally disembodied way or towards being anxious and angry about environmental problems.  Instead of WALL-E we need more camping trips; before learning facts about the consequences of deforestation we need to build fairy houses in the forest. Sobel sited some research that found correlations between "Wild Play" in nature and environmental responsibility, but not between traditional environmental education and stewardship later than life.  He also argued that children's time spent on family activities such as hunting, foraging, camping, etc. were good predictors of adult environmentalism.

Sobel talked quite a bit about time in nature as balm for our spirit.  He cited research indicating less depression and less ADHD among children who get to spend time playing in nature.  He went so far as to say that access to green space is a human right (at least for kids) -- (I'd have loved to have heard him talk more about the environmental justice movement, but I guess that's for another day). He also provided a lot of examples about how "wild play" in the outdoors promotes risk management skills -- that as kids discover what rocks they can successfully climb, what tree branches are safe to swing on, what kinds of ice will hold us when we skate, they begin the lifelong process of learning to assess risk, assess potentials for joy, and weigh those risks and benefits. 

Sobel mentioned a wilderness rites of passage experience that his daughter did with Kroka Expeditions. There is a list of other organizations providing outdoor education specifically for girls here.   Information for boys here.  A google search of "wilderness rites of passage" yields a ton of hits -- interesting to think more about as an FSP community. 

What did you learn? What do you wonder about now?