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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Saving Our Childern from Nature-deficit Disorder cont'd

The term 'loose parts' was first described by Nicholson he was referring to toys and how children use these tools to be creative, as previously stated with the Tonka Toy vs the Cardboard Box.

In nature children are very creative from using the den they have built as a castle or anything they want it to be, to exploring the woods as if they are on some great adventure, while the computer can be seen as a vast tool which can be applied in infinite 'loose parts' Lauv (2008) points out that these loose parts are made up of 0 & 1's in other words a binary code.

Lets compare this to nature's code.

We learn from nature by connecting with it, using all our senses. It is believed that our DNA contains memory and each cell in our body also contains memory from which we learn, it is not just our brain that teaches us, nature as Louv states is our "richest source of loose parts."

I personally believe nature is our greatest teacher, it allows us to be creative, for example I once watched a group of young boys who I had taken out tracking, spend time with a track, these were kids who apparently had short attention spans, yet they spent in all, around twenty minutes looking at this one track, disguising amongst themselves what they thought could have happened, the questions they were asking and acting out were 'what happened here', 'what is it telling us', and 'what can we learn from this?

When I go swimming I try to move through the water creating as few concentric rings as possible when I do this I am transported to a completely different world, its almost as if you are are becoming the same as the water, while I totally enjoy the Internet it still does not give me this sense of wonder and awe, such as seeing a young roe deer staring back at me, watching from a short distance away and in them few minutes there is a connection a sense of trying to discover each other. The children who sat on the track in the classroom without walls find it hard to concentrate in a classroom with walls and often became disruptive and yet here they were completely immersed in what nature was presenting them with.


Is it because we have an innate relationship with nature?

I believe this is exactly the case, the boys not only tracked the footprint on the ground but they also tracked each other exploring their relationship with each other, they were tracking their surroundings by going off to look at other areas where the trail could have gone and when they did not find anything they came back to their last definite sign and started over again.

They were tracking each others questions and actively seeking out the answers, they showed no signs of frustration at not finding the answer to their questions. They were tracking on so many levels and yet in school they struggled to do this.

More to come, check back later...

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Letter from Amercia... Concentric Rings

"Do you have more on this?

I went to a nature awareness school for a survival skills class in the Blue Ridge Mountains several years ago and the leader told us to have a "sit" in the woods and use soft vision instead of tunnel vision and I had some interesting things happen like a dove came to sit with me for quite a long time. It flew down to get a drink of water. I thought it would immediately fly away when it was finished drinking but it stayed for a long time.

At one point I saw some magenta lights and another moment I felt like something or someone was about to walk into my field of vision and it scared me so I ended the soft vision abruptly. If I remember correctly all of that happened the first time I tried that assignment.

Also, more than once, in various locations during my week long stay there, I saw concentric circles in the woods when I used this soft vision. It's hard to describe what I really saw but it's like I saw a pattern of clear concentric circles blended in with the trees? The leader never really said what this exercise was all about and I've been curious about what all happened. If you have anything you feel moved to share with me that is related, I'd be open and interested to check it out.

By the way, I met you last year in Boulder, CO at the pre-conference for the Wilderness Therapy Symposium. I hope things are going well for you over there in the UK. Do I have your permission to share your insight on my profile? I will give you credit...

There were lots of interesting things to read about and reflect on concerning the concentric rings. I will be checking out your blog more often."

Julia Z

Friday, 27 August 2010

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Childern from Nature-deficit Disorder

I have been dipping in and out of Richard Louv's book, which I am finding really interesting and as I read it, I am reminded of my childhood and other life experiences which I would like to share with you over the coming weeks...

Chapter 7. The Genius of childhood: How Nature Nurtures Creativity.

I was once asked at university to explain spirituality in relation to academic part of the course I was on. How do you do this it is such a personal experience, anyway this is what I came up with on the hoof as I had been given no warning.

To me the brain is an important part of us but it is not the whole of us, for example I need my brain to get me through the day when problem solving and so on. The computer is like the brain, when I step up to the key board, i can write a book, draw a picture, crate music and much, much more. In fact the computer has come a long way there are programmes that monitor what you do the computer and then the next time you step up to it, the programme will preempt you behaviour, this is known as automaticity *.

It is like learning to drive a car for the first time, you are constantly thinking about every action you need to take from mirror to gear changing. However, after a while you find you can drive from point A to point B and not even remember doing this, that's because the short-term memory as stored these actions into long-term memory, therefore freeing up the short term to deal with more immediate problems.

So back to creating a book etc on the computer, it's a wonderful thing to be able to do all these amazing things with the computer/our brain. However, once I step away from the computer that's all it is a computer, it needs me my creativity, my soul, my heart. without this the machine will just be there.

So what has this got to do with children's creativity?

Well I remember once a colleague came into work after the Christmas break, I asked him way the long face, he said he had bought is grandson the biggest and best Tonka toy you can imagine, he then went on to say that his grandson played with the toy for about twenty minutes but then moved onto the box which he played with for the rest of the holiday. Of course he would I replied that's because THE BOX can be a racing car, a ship, a castle or even an aeroplane, it can be anything you want it to be.

As a child I can remember playing with a pen with a small ruler pushed into the clip, that pen was a plane in that moment, then I would take the ruler out and it became a submarine and so it went on for example I would take an old shoe box with my friends and we would draw square son the lid and draw in rivers, hills an woods. Then we would get our Airfix soldiers and a dice, make up some rules and we would play for hours, if you got a six you beat the person you were up against Now, I like to think that this game we all played as kids was the fore runner of Risk today, who knows.

The point is while computer programmes and games are truly amazing and excellent tools for learning etc there is no real replacement for being out in nature. As children we would think up all sorts of adventures to get up to, from building a den to cowboys and Indians (hands up who always wanted to be an Indian).

More to come later...

*Automaticity is the ability to do things in long-term memory without occupying the short-term memory with the low-level details which would require a large amount of attention, thus allowing it to become an automatic response pattern.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Bushcraft and drama boost GCSE success at top state secondary | News:

I came cross this on Twitter this morning it was posted by Tim Daw and I thought you might be interested in it...

"Pupils at London's best state school achieved near-perfect GCSE results — by taking breaks from the pressures of revision to master bushcraft.

A remarkable 92 per cent of exams taken by girls at the Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead Garden Suburb scored A* or A grades this year.

But headteacher Oliver Blond insists that the intensely competitive nature of modern exams can hold pupils back.

His staff lay on a wide range of activities such as sport, drama, school trips and music to make sure that girls are not excessively hot-housed for their exams. Among the activities this year was a bushcraft survival trip."

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

My journey into the jungle up the river to meet local Mayan Indians

Punta Gorda is a town in Belize. It is capital of the Toledo District. Punta Gorda is the southernmost sizable town in the nation, with a population of about 6,000 people. Although the town bears a Spanish name, its inhabitants are mostly Kriol/English -speaking, primarily of Garifuna, East Indian, and Kriol descent.

Punta Gorda is a seaport and fishing town on the Caribbean Sea before being settled by a number of Garifuna emigrants from Honduras in 1823 which is on its Southern Boarder. The town is about fifteen feet above sea level.

I travelled down to this region as part of a team who were going deep into the jungle to negotiate with the local Indians about doing a project for their community. We went with the local police, in their boat entering the river having crossed the open sea, the long journey provided an opportunity to see some of the wildlife and birds from that area.

When we arrived at the village and were immediately greeted and taken to the long lodge near the centre of the village, the people could not take their eyes off me, as their tallest person only came up to just below my chest I even towered over the roof of the lodge. What I found interesting was that while the expedition leader (who was a woman) and the deputy leader (a man), talked with the chief and their shaman who was the one who did most of the talking, they mainly with the man and there women folk remained in the background, we found out later that they are not used to negotiating with women.

Later the kids showed us how they catch Iguanas, they would approach them while they were relaxing in a tree overhanging the river. The Iguanas would then drop into the river to escape and one or more of the boys depending on how many Iguanas jumped into the water would dive after them. What they said was that when they dive they twisted backwards and go in the opposite direction you think they are going thus avoiding capture however, the boys would do the same and of course end up catching them.

Monday, 9 August 2010

I have no idea how a rabbit behaves...

I introduced a player into the game as a fox who was not blindfolded. The fox had to stalk someone who was playing the role of a young rabbit, after I had briefed the woman playing the role of a rabbit, she said to me. I have no idea how a rabbit behaves.

The fox began its stalk the young rabbit slowly moving with intent towards it, the woman was behaving exactly like a rabbit does, she moved in the same way even sat the same way.

We watched as the mother (who was blindfolded) put herself between the young rabbit who was also blindfolded and the fox who continued to push home its stalk by changing direction and regardless of the direction the fox went in, the mother continually put herself between her young and the fox.

The mother could not hear the fox as the person playing the fox was on all fours and moving very slowly and with intent. The young rabbit at this point moved to place herself behind the mother as if she could actually see where the mother was standing, which she could not have known as there was very little movement and noise taking place.

This was truly a moment to enjoy the relationship formed between two people playing the part on of mother and child as animals was amazing. The idea behind this part of the game was to observe how the prey and the mother responded to the danger presented by the fox.

Very well it would seem.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

I see no chickens - Belize to Tikal Guatemala and back

After living in Belize for five months while working for Raleigh International, I decided that I would take off to Guatemala to visit Tikal. What an amazing place apart from all the fantastic bird life the temples were just awesome. I climbed one which was quite steep and once at the top you had a wonderful view out over the top of the jungle canopy which was periodically broken by other pyramids reaching up to the sky.

It's well worth a visit if you are in the region.

On my return I caught the local bus into the nearest town, I had always wanted to travel that way, you know a bus packed with people, chickens and goats sat next to you etc. Well as I sat with my feet on some sacks I was disappointed to find there were no chickens or goats on my bus, that is until the bus stopped and I went to get off the bus, the sacks I had rested my feet on suddenly moved and you guessed it, chickens, they were full of chickens, which made me jump as I had not expected the sacks to move.

After I got off and the bus had left, I suddenly realised that I had left my Snowy River Hat (Australian) on the bus, a very expensive hat at that. I consoled myself with the thought that whoever finds it has got themselves a really cool hat or if they sale it, the money from the sale will feed their family for some months to come.

I like to think that they ate well.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

My First Golden Eagle

I was skiing in Germany for the first time on an exercise with the army called Ex Snow Queen. One day when I was taking the 'T' Bar up the mountain to do a ski run, one of my friends who was about five people ahead of me was shouting for my attention.

I saw him pointing skywards and there to my surprise was my first ever Golden Eagle soaring over head. I was so fixed on seeing the eagle that I lost my balance and fell over, in the process I took out the next twenty or so German skiers,.

They were not very happy with me, as they were all piled on top of me I was fighting to get them out of the way so I could get a better view of the eagle. Eventually I managed to the side and out of the way of the 'T' Bar to every ones relief, then I set out to make my way back down the mountain waist deep in snow the trek down was a real hard slog, it was well worth it for seeing my first Golden Eagle, I feel sure the Germans would not agree with me though.

Hay ho.
Photo: Birdmeister click on photo to follow link.


"You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something build a new model that makes the
existing model obsolete."
Buckminster Fuller

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Free Sample Paint Cards...

Here is something I used to good effect in the past, free sample paint cards. I got a whole batch of these from B&Q's once, then I spent sometime cutting them down and then placed them all into a small container.

This idea was given to me by a friend, she was telling me that she uses where she works in a kinder garden, so I thought I would give it a go. I went out with one of the boys I use to work with for a nature walk.

I asked him to pick one of the cards from the container and I picked on as well. The aim was to try and find the colour we had just chosen in nature, once we had found it, we would either talk about how that felt, for example did it remind us of anything, what happened on the journey to finding that colour? Did we see any animals, birds or any interesting looking plants.

We played this game for hours before heading back to the school when we found a real deep orange in some rotten wood on the way back, we had given up on this colour earlier believing that we would not find it at all, because we had spent ages looking for it and could not find it anywhere.

Funny how things turn.

I am now using this as part of my Natural Awareness course where I can take it to a much deeper level, but what a great game for just having fun with kids and so cheap as well.

Try it, let me now how you get on.