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.