Thursday, February 21, 2013

101 things together

Nature can "level the playing field" in ways that nothing else can. In nature, children are faced with challenges large and small and often instinctively work together to help each other face those challenges. Last week we were climbing mountains of snow and ice, and J needed some help getting up to the top of a huge snowbank. His sister, who had already reached to top, quickly removed her scarf and threw him a line to hold while he scaled the icy slope. She held fast to the scarf and cheered as he climbed, then eventually reached the summit of the great Ice Mountain. It was lovely to see them working together, not in competition with each other for anything. This got me to thinking about where in life there are opportunities or reasons for children to give this kind of support to each other. Physical challenges indoors? In most homes and schools, there aren't many. As children age, and they are involved in more adult-directed activities, the challenges we present to them are pretty controlled, and mostly meant to be overcome alone. But bring the children outdoors and there are all sorts of physical challenges to be faced. In most cases, children know they can't do it alone. They seem to automatically reach out to one another, to ask for help or to be a source of help. It doesn't matter who's bigger, smaller, faster, more competent, etc. Children are able to easily tune into their own strengths and limitations, and to help each other or ask for help they need. This ice mountain offered a fine example of teamwork, but I've seen children help each other cross streams, climb trees, dig holes, make forts, pile get the idea. Nature experiences like this are important because they give our children opportunities to help one another, opportunities for collaboration, teamwork and cooperation.

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