This is the fifth in a series of blog posts by Nancy Rosenow, Executive Director of Nature Explore. These posts are a distillation of key ideas from her book, “Heart-Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature.”
The great cycles of nature—seasonal cycles, lunar cycles, Circadian cycles—all remind us of the need for balance. When children lose deep connections with these cycles, they miss the chance to learn about life’s balance from a great teacher: the natural world.
Our current culture seems designed to separate us as much as possible from these natural rhythms. We humans manipulate these cycles to suit our whims. We change the temperature of our homes, keep lights burning late into the night, and eat food shipped out-of-season from all reaches of the globe. In a far cry from our leisurely, cyclical agricultural roots, our educational system has succumbed to the pressure to “push harder,” often cutting back on students’ physical education and outdoor time to make room for more “real” learning time. After school, families are on the go more than ever, many parents work multiple jobs to keep up with financial demands, and new child-targeting technologies chip away at the already minimal time children might spend exploring the natural world.
How can we combat this seemingly endless list of challenges? Our schools and early childhood programs can become positive examples of a balanced way of living. We can plan daily times for energy expenditure and rest. We can teach self-nurturing strategies. We can help children learn that working hard is desirable, but should be followed by exercise, healthy eating, rest and play. Imagine if we taught our children relaxation techniques they could use throughout their lives. How might our schools transform if every student had time each day to work in an outdoor classroom—not as recess but as an integral part of daily learning?
In 2013, perhaps even more crucial than the need for physical balance is the need for emotional balance. We are a generation of constant social interaction, yet the new cultural requirement that we remain constantly available to others is an emotional energy drainer. Meantime, the bombardment of nonstop news (a new, artificial cycle,) reminds us of danger, violence and disasters. It’s exhausting and defeating, particularly for children.
I believe that studying cycles and the natural world can help children cope with the intense emotional demands of today’s world. They can learn about life’s greatest challenges in a tangible, meaningful way. There is comfort in the notion that the universe has been here for eons before us and will persevere long after our individual lives are over.
An Invitation to Celebrate Seasons
*Try adding deep breathing and gratitude breaks to your work day; if you work directly with children, include these breaks in your daily teaching routines.
*Be intentional about effort and recovery periods in your day and week. Try an experiment of, each evening, tracking the times over the course of the day that you took time to recover your energy. After a week, reflect on the proportions that reveal themselves. Do you need to give yourself the gift of more recovery time? How can you help yourself achieve more of an energy balance in your daily life?
*A simple but powerful tool for coping with difficult times is to repeat to yourself, “This is part of the cycle of life.” Remind yourself that after even the darkest times, something new and beautiful will bloom within you.
Other Heart-Centered posts: Prepare Your Soil; Effective Gardening Tools; Flowers Bloom; Nurturing the Seeds of Learning