To kick off Learning By Nature’s new website, I thought it would be interesting to start a dialogue and share ideas on the meanings of ‘learning’ and ‘nature’. By learning I mean both the formal and informal types which take place in school, daycare, public spaces, parks and developments. Formally, we can learn the names of plants, mountain ranges, insects and different clouds while enjoying nature. We can also learn valuable life skills and new ways of thinking such as through problem solving, communication, tolerance and self confidence. Now how does ‘nature’ fit in?
Sure a ‘walk in the woods’ would benefit everyone- a little vitamin D, fresh air, exercise and stress reduction- but reality is not everyone has access to ‘the woods’. In fact, most population centers across the world are in dense urban environments and offer very little ‘woods’ or nature to enjoy. I propose however, that ‘nature’ comes in all different shapes and sizes. Vacant lots, roof top gardens, puddles, planters, window boxes, alley ways, community gardens… these all offer similar ‘walk in the woods’ opportunities. Nature comes in all shapes and sizes. Most children will find similar wonders and creative play in a neighborhood puddle as they would a mountain lake. The benefits from doing either are tremendous.
Reflect on these new definitions of ‘learning’ and ‘nature’ and think of the many populations of people and places across the globe. How can we bring these two words together into one experience for all ages, cultures, socioeconomic levels. The benefits of doing so (physically, cognitively, socially, environmentally) far outweigh the risks. Really, we are only limited by our imagination. Maybe we need to play in the ‘woods’ more to better understand, witness, and define our missed opportunities.