Transformation? Or Confirmation?
By Dexter Lane, Nature Explore Program Writer and Consultant
Most reading our Community blog posts have been with children in a Nature Explore Classroom. You have seen play that is qualitatively different than you would typically see on a traditional playground. Whether it’s in the excitement of discovering a new bug, or in the mature social interactions of group play, children’s “best selves” are as much a part of the outdoor classroom as is nature itself. And because we are freed to interact with children in healthy engagements rather than as behavior monitors, our own “best selves” flower, as well.
These days, the word “transformation” is overused; to the point where its rich meaning is rarely honored. Yet the learning and play we see in children during our time in Nature Explore Classrooms, and the stories we share and hear from other caretakers, is daily evidence of the original vivid power of this word. Transformation, transformational, transformative; these words are honest and accurate when used to describe the effects of a well supplied Nature Explore Classroom, staffed by adults who leverage its potentials for learning and wonder.
In our Nature Explore literature, from books to blog posts, you’ll find stories of true transformations that may often resonate with your own experiences. The child diagnosed with an attention disorder, that engages in explorations that sustain his focus. The girl who had been shy in the classroom, yet who dares to join a group outdoors that is focused on discoveries rather than on social hierarchies. The teacher who is freed from being the behavioral monitor she never wanted to be, and who now engages with children in ways that drew her to teaching in the first place. The professionals who have been on the edge of leaving their career—brought back to their passion for education after experiencing a Nature Explore Classroom. You have told us these stories and we’ve shared them in Nature Explores blog posts and books.
Yet many of you probably have experiences in outdoor classrooms that feel more “confirmative” than “transformative.” You, and your school or program, had extensive experience with children in nature before getting an outdoor classroom. The design of your Nature Explore Classroom enhances learning and relationships with children that you had already enjoyed.
Whether your relationships with children have been transformed, or deepened by a feeling of confirmation, we would like to know your thoughts. Please share your experiences with us in the comments below. Thanks!