My Educational Philosophy.

This is my Credo.

I have a number of memories of my experiences outside. I have seen wolves in the wild, I have been close enough to a wild black bear to touch, I have slept on a beach under the stars and let the waves lull me to sleep. I know what it’s like to dance in a cornfield and howl at wolves and have them howl back. I have played with wild fawns while their mother watched with no worry, and I remember what it’s like to hold a spider in the palm of my hand for the first time without fear. Most of my twenty-one years of living has been spent out of doors, and I can only hope to pass down what I have learned and experienced with others.

It wasn’t until I came to Northland that I discovered you could actually major in something called Outdoor Education. To me, outdoor education is experienced-based education. It is a field of education that is very hands-on about the natural world. L.B. Sharp said, “That which ought and can best be learned inside the classroom should be learned there; and that which can best be learned through direct experience outside the classroom, dealing directly with native materials and life situations, should there be learned.” That is outdoor education. It is a combination of this experiential learning, adventure education, and environmental concerns. It’s not all about canoeing, hiking, or mountain climbing. Outdoor education is about finding a connection with nature, a deeper relationship, and working with others to see the beauty in the world around us and to protect it. It combines such skills as leadership and teamwork, survival skills and problem solving, and uses this to create a sense of spirituality and growth within a person. It is up to that person to take that and share with others.

I believe that an effective educator is able to do this, to learn all this and create that connection, and than successfully share that knowledge with the world. My own style works best with children. I find that the most beautiful things are the simplest. Jim Henson said, “Life is simple,” and I agree with that. Children, I find, respond to this philosophy well. The life cycle of a monarch butterfly may seem complex, but put in the correct terms, to a child it can be the simplest idea. Watching even a small insect grow and live is beautiful – and the people that I have experienced to understand this best have been the kids I’ve worked with, not the adults. Kids can teach kids as well. Maria Montessori was a firm believer that older children should teach younger children and that kids should learn at their own pace. Her philosophy has helped shape my own: watch kids! They know a lot more than we think they do. I hope to help this by instilling this sense of wonder within children at such an early age that, as they grow, they will want to share it with others and the cycle will continue and spread. It is their role to learn and live and share. It is as simple as that.

By sharing knowledge and spreading awareness, the broader community will want to take part. I was talking to Sarah Lerohl, the school-programming director at the Hartley Nature Center, and she said that the reason they had adults come to the Center, was because their children wanted to come. The adults usually ended up coming back because they became as interested as their children. So by teaching kids, it will not only get passed down generations, but passed up them as well. And the more people who know and learn, the more the community will become involved. I have heard of communities who have gotten together, and through active contributions and development, created more parks and more green spaces for kids to play in. The amount of power a community has is often grossly underestimated.

I am very much a naturalist. I find pleasure in places, in learning about the features of the landscape and what creatures and plants reside in that area. I was drawn very much to Northern Wisconsin. When I was younger, we would take trips up here and I decided at an early age that I wanted to live up here. But it isn’t just this area; I find wonder in nature wherever I go, and I think too many people pass by something beautiful and never see it. I see my role as an educator as being someone who can point out this beauty to people and to show them how to see it every day and care for it. I want to create a deeper connection between people and the earth. I think too often people forget the feeling of dirt between their toes or the sound of the wind through the trees. I think schoolteachers forget that there is much more outside the classroom and that children need to touch and interact with their environment to really learn. Not all kids are the same and each learns in a different way and I feel that in this field, it is easier to see the personalities of children come out when given a more active role.

I believe in the power of nature. I believe that given a nudge, children will find a relationship with this great big world that’s much deeper than the one many share with their video games. Children need nature; this thought is amplified in Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, a book that reflects my own thoughts on nature in detail. Children are not getting into the woods enough; they need it. And by getting them outside, they will want to spend more time there.

I believe I can make this world better by simply showing off all its wonderful details: its smallest spiders to its biggest trees. I believe that children have something within their minds that allow them to easily understand things that adults have problems figuring out. I think that’s what makes them so important: we aren’t just teaching them, they are teaching us as well. I want to work with children on showing the rest of humanity that the world around is full of awe and wonder. Everyone and everything is connected; we just have to recognize this and realize that we really are apart of something beautiful.

6 responses to “My Educational Philosophy.”

  1. Lauren says:

    *claps* Simply beautiful and well-said!

  2. Leigh says:

    See, this is why I love you.

  3. I agree with you entirely, and I hope there are many others like us out there. Education, as we have it today, is a bit broken in more than one way, and I think it’s as you pointed out in portion of your entry: that children should learn at their own pace, and they should be shown the beauty in our world, just as much as given some of our grimy histories.

    Half of all my schooling years was spent being home schooled; the other half was in private or public schools. In other words, I’ve seen a lot of the benefits and downsides to all major versions of education. One thing I always liked about home schooling was its willingness to embrace radical ideas and different means of teaching. (And they obviously work, considering how many home schooled students excel.)

    A couple of years ago, I attended a home schooling seminar for parents, just to see what’s being said these days. One of the women giving speeches that night had I think it was four or five children, and she had allowed the youngest two to learn very much at their own pace. Her youngest daughter struggled with reading, and she didn’t pressure her (she was fine in other areas of learning); instead, she encouraged it through allowing her daughter to listen to her read and see her siblings enjoy books. Suddenly, at the age of nine, all her daughter’s problems with reading just seemed to vanish. She began to read…and not only read, but love to read. To conventional educators, her daughter would have had a learning disability and been behind, when in fact, she just learned differently and in her own time. She’s now as “normal” as can be, even according to the conventional thoughts of normal!

    For all our beliefs that we use very progressive, enlightened thinking, it’s very rigid thinking. I agree…we sometimes need to look to the natural world and maybe relax a bit through common sense. Sunsets, light breezes and grasshoppers can all be magical, if we’ll just let them be. People far too often forget such things when they stop reading fairytales.

    I hope you inspire lots of children with your outlook on the world!

  4. nikki says:

    That is really interesting Lelia! Thanks for sharing that story. I know quite a few people who were all homeschooled and they all basically agree with what you’re saying.

    Thank you.

  5. Mom Jeske says:

    EXCELLANT!!! Nikkki you have a wonderful way with words! Who did you learn that from??…love ya very much Pup.. See ya on saturday

  6. Joshua says:

    I think your outdoor experience is amazing! You seem really in touch with nature, and its great that you still remain in tune with technology (or at least able to blog?) I’ve spent a healthy share of my 21 years outside, however as I get older it seems that I’m slowly spending less and less. You’ve inspired me to get out there more. Hopefully this trend can reverse itself after college… BTW I found your site through Lelia’s. Great blog you got here. Keep it up! 😛

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