Have you ever rubbed two sticks together and created a spark, and then used that spark to light a fire? I don’t know about you, but even as a small child I’ve been fascinated with the idea of creating fire without matches or a lighter – so much so that I spent hours banging rocks together in the hopes of creating a spark (and instead of sparks I accumulated lots of bandaids on my thumbs).
My ten year old son Luke just returned from his first solo-overnight trip in the wilderness. He wanted to sleep in a debris hut by a local wild river, make a fire on his own, and catch fish and gather plants for food or else go hungry. Luke is a little competitive, and his two years older brother had accomplished his first overnighter a year ago.
The morning after his night out alone, Luke returned to our backyard. His steps had a little swagger to them; the steps of a boy who just pushed himself to his edge and succeeded. The buckskin shirt he and his father made together a few months before was streaked with mud. A black smudge ran across his cheek.
“So you made fire?” I asked him, pointing to the charcoal on his cheek.
I pulled with all my might. It’s harder than you think, pulling on two goat legs covered with slippery amniotic fluid. The fact that there were two feet instead of just a little head was marvelous. Ideally, goats are born in a diving position – two legs, and the head on top of them, often with a pink tongue sticking out.
An hour earlier, I realized that the goat giving birth had strained and strained without making progress. I knew I had to “go in” to straighten out the baby’s position. The problem was that my own baby, 11 months old Eva, had just woken up from her nap, and my husband and neighbors were all gone, so I had no help. “Going in” can be nerve wracking work, but I had no choice. So I strapped Eva onto my back with my Moby wrap, a long piece of cloth slung around mother and baby to securely attach baby to the mother. I called for my sons, five-year-old Lukas and seven-year-old Kai.
A genius, natural way to get your kids excited about being outdoors.
In a time before live media broadcasts and video games, everyone was raised free range. Our parents were all raised free range – it was the only way of being raised. It was the good ole days of riding a bike to the park, to a friend’s house or the store when penny candy was only a penny. You could build forts, scrape legs and be pre exposed to a slew of forbidden activities without anyone being sued, just as long as you were back by dusk.
School gardens are blossoming across the country. Over the past decade, school gardens have grown from a rarity to a well-known concept that continues to gain traction in schools small and large, public and private, rural and urban.1
Just as with learning to walk, children learn best by doing rather than by watching. Gardening with kids is filled with exploration, education, and fun, allowing them to experience things firsthand and participate in active learning. Working in a garden inspires creativity, develops nurturing skills, and empowers kids to make choices, thus giving them a sense of pride in their accomplishments.
Last week I taught at a children’s summer camp program called Back to Nature at the nearby Montessori school. The following is a daily curriculum journal of the program that can be used as a resource for nature-based activities and lessons for children.
She runs the fields barefoot. She sings to the crops and dances for the plants. She is curious and brave, intelligent and wise, sweet and compassionate, loving and nurturing. She is 4 but she is wise like the sages. She teaches me so much about life and love and healing.