One of my favorite nature advocates, Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, explains the importance of children’s connections to nature below:
“Wonder is when you are 3-4 years old, you go out in your backyard, find a rock, turn it over and realize you are not alone in the universe. This sense of wonder is the source of all spiritual growth.”
This sense of wonder as spiritual growth is the essence of Existential Intelligence proposed by Howard Gardner as part of his Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Gardner felt that people strong in existential intelligence often asked the bigger questions of human existence. A core element of existential intelligence, how do we connect to the world in which we live?
What better way to explore human existence, and our impact on the world, than by exploring nature? While this question is valid, it is difficult for children to understand. Our goal should be to provide opportunities to explore this topic in ways that are less abstract and developmentally appropriate.
Exploring a Sense of Wonder:
Nature offers endless prospects for us to explore the concepts supported by Richard Louv. Allowing the children multiple opportunities to see nature in many different forms, reflecting on nature and how it changes, and participating fully in nature will help enhance this sense of wonder.
Six Activities for connecting with our universe:
- Let children touch, feel, and examine nature in new ways. Pick up rocks and look underneath, marvel at the changing weather, and discuss topics such as why rain is the life force for all living things.
- Listen to the hundreds of “why” questions children ask each day and ponder these questions with them.
- Help children make meaningful connections between what they are learning about nature and nature itself. Let children experience the feel of a cold winter’s day instead of just looking out the window and stating it’s cold. Discuss why the days are getting longer and warmer as spring gives way to summer.
- Celebrate Earth Day all year long! Provide opportunities for children to learn how to take care of the earth with activities such as recycling and community service projects.
- Studying life cycles and life changes of insects, animals, and plants.
- Allow children to experiment with phenomenon’s which can’t be seen or touched such as gravity, wind, and space.
Finally, one of the best ways to enhance a child’s natural existential intelligence is to allow for curiosity. As Walt Disney once said:
“We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
Richard Louv Website:
Interested in learning more about Howard Gardner’s Theory of Intelligence and how we can apply it to nature? Stay tuned for future blogs on the topic.
Continue learning about nature in the preschool outdoor classroom
Investigate, measure, document, and discuss temperature, rainfall, wind direction, and atmospheric pressure, in The Adventurous Child Weather Station Learning Center.
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