Today we went on a morning field trip here. This local wetland park has become one of our favorite places. One of the easy mistakes for me to make when taking a nature walk with kids is to overteach. To want to point out everything and to then bore them to tears with talking about what we see. Or to try too hard to “learn something” so that I turn a great experience into an activity that has lost its magic.
I’ve gotten better about this. I’ve learned that not surprisingly the boys enjoy these walks the most the same way I do. Just doing it. We walk. We look. Sometimes we see things that are particularly interesting and we point them out to each other. sometimes we don’t. Sometimes just being outdoors in the quiet (well, quiet before we get there) is nice. Sometimes it’s just fun to climb on the fallen trees. Sometimes they are more into running and chasing each other than looking at anything around them.
One nice thing about going back to the same place over and over is that it’s easy to experience the seasonal changes and the cycles of nature. I don’t have to point out what is different in the fall than the summer, it just obviously is a different place. And each time we see something new. One time it was a big black rat snake sunning itself on a log. Today we saw a newly built beaver lodge that had been built right against the boardwalk giving us a great look at it. We saw fresh raccoon tracks in the mud. We saw geese and an egret and a lot of other birds I didn’t know.
A lesson I learn newly each time is to look at things from my boys’ perspective. Always one of them sees something in a way I don’t and it reminds me to slow down or look at things differently. And it reminds me that the teacher-student relationship is not all one way, perhaps especially in homeschooling.
Today it was at the end of the walk in the nature center. I was pointing out an eel in a fish tank to David. We’ve seen the eel before and it’s pretty cool to try and find. It burrows under the rocks at the bottom of the tank. In fact, last time it was John who showed it to me. So today I thought I’d show it to David. I asked him if he saw it and he said yes, then he said “And there’s a fish too.” I couldn’t see the fish at all but David is very good at spotting small things so I figured there was some small fish he saw. I got down next to him to look for it and saw that in fact it was a HUGE fish, but just at the top of the tank so that I couldn’t see it when I was standing up. To David it must have seemed strange that I was pointing out the eel and ignoring the big fish right in front of my face.
Slow down. Look. Listen. Enjoy. A good morning’s lesson for all of us.