Heart-Centered Teaching: Nurturing the Seeds of Learning

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts by Nancy Rosenow, Executive Director of Nature Explore. These posts were originally featured in 2013 and are a distillation of key ideas from her book, “Heart-Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature.

“For the child… it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.”       –Rachel Carson

498_071As we continue the process of nurturing our own inner gardens, we can now turn our attention to understanding “seeds”—the children in our care. Heart-centered teaching is about much more than helping children learn facts. If we think of facts as the seeds of future wisdom, then it is the educator’s job to provide optimal conditions for healthy growth. These perfect growing conditions occur when each child is given the emotional equivalents of sunshine, rain and nutrient-rich soil.

First and foremost, our job as heart-centered educators must be to understand the potential of each “seed” we are nurturing. What would it be like if every educator were able to provide unconditional positive regard to each child? World-changing, no doubt. Children nourished with that kind of “nutrient-rich” love might blossom beyond our wildest dreams. The world, in turn, would become a kinder place, rich with music, art, science, and invention.

DSC00759If I think of this kind of unconditional love as the sunlight that gently coaxes seeds to grow, then I consider authentic praise something we need to shower on children to keep them challenged and creatively engaged. When I speak of authentic praise, I refer to relating to children in a manner that is genuine. Sometimes, we caring adults shower children with praising statements such as, “Good job,” or “I’m proud of you.” These statements have little effect on children’s motivation. On the other hand, if teachers provide authentic and descriptive comments, (“You worked on that problem for 20 minutes and never gave up until you figured it out,” or “I see you being very kind and thoughtful with your friends; thank you for helping Jack when he fell down,”) motivation thrives. Authentic praise helps us have real relationships with children. Instead of suggesting that they should work hard in order to please us, we illustrate that effort is its own reward, and persistence and determination lead to feelings of pride.

The final condition we need to provide for optimal growth of our little seeds is inspiring experiences. This is where having a nature-filled outdoor classroom can be so beneficial. The varying colors, textures, smells, sounds and tastes found in natural spaces remind children—and educators—that life is to be savored.

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Heart-centered teachers provide the optimal conditions that help children grow to understand themselves, others and all of life as truly miraculous.

Other Heart-Centered posts: Prepare Your Soil; Self-DiscoveryEffective Gardening ToolsFlowers Bloom