This is the final 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.”
Nature uses storms to promote strength. Trees develop sturdy trunks and branches to withstand high winds, pounding rain and heavy snow. Young saplings that remain tied to stakes for too long do not develop strong trunks and may split in even moderate winds. It’s the struggle during the storm that helps a young tree develop resilience.
And so it is with human beings. Pema Chodron illustrates this beautifully: “To be fully alive, fully human and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.” Hers is another fine metaphor for the resonance of the natural world in our human lives. To lead challenging, creative lives, we must learn to weather life’s storms, which in turn will give us the courage to leap from our nests of safety into the great unknown of possibilities and growth.
Children who regularly spend time in natural outdoor classrooms will have many occasions to strengthen their creative thinking muscles and develop problem solving capabilities. They will also inevitably come into contact with death and decay, beauty, gentleness and aggression. They will be given opportunities on a daily basis to ponder some of the great ambiguities of life.
I believe that, often, we are afraid to allow children to contemplate the weighty questions of life because it will force us to deal with them as well. How do we face the fact that death is a part of life? How do we come to terms with our own mortality? How do we reconcile the beauty of the natural world with nature’s occasional but inevitable cruelty? These are not easy questions, but they are worth asking.
One of the gifts nature gives us is the reassurance that a new day will always dawn. No matter how dark the night, the sun will always rise. These may seem like clichés, but if we really ponder the meaning of these words, we are reminded that we, too, have the ability to persevere. We can find the lesson—and the gift—in every situation, no matter how challenging.
In closing, I’d like to offer one final metaphor. I hope you will find it empowering.
Giant sequoia trees seem as if they should be sturdy enough to weather storms alone. In reality, even these magnificent giants need help. Only by interlocking roots with other sequoias can the individual trees withstand nature’s squalls. Sequoias fare best when they help each other, and so do we humans. My wish for you is also my wish for myself: to become more like a sequoia. I will keep searching for other people who believe in heart-centered teaching. Together we’ll find strength in our connections. We’ll let nature inspire us to teach from our hearts every day, and we’ll stay eternally surprised by the goodness we find.
The journey through Heart-Centered Teaching Inspired by Nature, previously posted: Prepare Your Soil; Effective Gardening Tools; Flowers Bloom; Nurturing the Seeds of Learning; Celebrating Seasons; Enjoying Caretaking