The illustrator and thinker Francesco Tonucci tells how they made him take out everything he carried in his pockets before going to the classroom to enter 'empty of distractions'. This article is precisely an allegation to the magic hidden in the pockets of boys and girls. Those pockets full of witnesses from the outside world, of natural treasures, of elements with history and even with name and surname. It is an invitation to bring children closer to nature and go out into the country to create special moments and experiences that are what, after all, we keep in our backpack of memories.
Many of you will probably remember Heidi, that happy and smiling girl who lived with her grandfather in the mountains of the Swiss Alps. When the little girl moves to the city, she falls ill and is only cured when she returns to the mountains where her friend Clara's health also improved in contact with nature. What happened to Heidi is what is called nature deficit disorder - also known as Heidi syndrome - a term that Richard Louv coined in 2005 and that first appeared in his well-known work 'The Last Boy in the Woods'.
A childhood in contact with the nature on a daily or very frequent basis, it is related to a better attention span, emotional and behavioral development and, ultimately, to a personal well-being that has a direct consequence in a healthier lifestyle for the human being and for the planet itself.
The proposal that I make this time begins with go out with the family to nature from that look of a child seasoned with the innate qualities that childhood always carries in its backpack of life: amazement, curiosity, creativity and motivation.
Let's go out into nature with the gaze of the curious and the explorer to enjoy the wonders - some of them somewhat hidden - that inhabit our environment and surround us. Walking around like we were nature detectives, or archaeologists looking for those treasures and relics. It is an activity that can be carried out in any type of natural environment, be it a forest, the mountain, the field, the beach or our closest park.
The game that I propose to you is very simple to propose; is about look for the natural treasures that they ask us. As simple as that. So exciting. It is an activity that we can adapt to any age, although perhaps it is more aimed at children from two years of age (with adult accompaniment) onwards.
As there are many types of searches, we are going to customize ours and we are going to make it something common that wewe can do on a monthly basis. If we turn this activity into something monthly it becomes a habit, something expected and, at the same time, unexpected, since we can vary each month the natural environment and elements to find. Our treasures will be different with the passing of the seasons and locations and our search will also acquire new emotions and intrigues.
In addition, doing it on a monthly basis allows us to go observing in a natural way how our environment changes with the seasons. Understanding the passage of time, the climate, the changes that occur in animals or plants and understanding that everything in nature is causal and not accidental leads them to understand phenomena naturally and reality acquires meaning.
Nature is a great specialist in showing you that when you touch the cold water of the river, for example, it has a correspondence with what happens in your environment - my hands are cold because the water that I touch from the river carries the snow that is melting something above - and that brings them closer to deduction, to cause-effect understanding, to exploration and discovery and, therefore, to meaningful learning.
So what we need is a list with our treasures to find in the game, a pencil to mark the ones we are finding and a basket where we can keep the treasures.
What I leave here is a proposal of 10 natural treasures to find that you can modify according to the months or ages:
- Something tiny
- Something you only find at this station
- Something that surprises you
- Something new that you did not know
- An item that is hidden
- A stick with lichens
- A smooth stone
- An item with a smell that you like
- A deciduous leaf
- Something that has value to you
When we begin to go to nature with children, the surprises that nature offers in the form of flowers, stones or other elements invite many boys and girls to want to collect large amounts of treasures. This activity simply limits that amount of treasure. But also, when it comes to finding and saving them, I recommend giving a couple of simple guidelines to accompany little explorers:
'Look around you ... how much of that element, that flower, that stone? If there are few flowers, let's look in places where there are many more. Those flowers are what call bees and thanks to them this little corner of the field also exists and grows. When you see that there are so many, go only to the one that catches your attention and ask him quietly if he wants to go with you. There are flowers that will tell us yes, and flowers that also say no. If she says no, we leave her in her place and continue walking until we find the one who calls us and wants to go with us. '
In this way, we will ensure that our children collect the natural treasures that we have proposed, always taking care of the environment and respecting the beings that surround us.
Since the activity itself is already directed, as adults we will try to go to nature respecting the search rhythm of children, without haste, without stress, without giving clues.
- Let it be an activity that gives them freedom of movement and exploration.
- Let's spend time exploring and discovering the search itself provides us. Looking for treasure we have endless opportunities to learn about many other things.
- The process is more important than the result. If we do not have time to finish our search because we have entertained ourselves looking at dozens of other things ... welcome! We can come back another day and complete our search.
- Let's open our minds to creativity. Children will probably find treasures that according to their criteria correspond to what is requested and according to ours perhaps not completely. Let us accompany your process and be creative and flexible. It is very enriching to see an item from different perspectives.
What do we do with these natural treasures that we have found? Well, children love to collect and save things that are special to them, usually because they have a story behind them (a moment, someone important who found it, an activity that they are passionate about ...). So I propose you keep your natural treasures in a special corner of the house where they can go whenever they want. I invite you to reuse materials that are in your homes, such as:
- Cardboard boxes
- Glass jars, which can decorate or write the month to which the treasures belong
- Wooden boxes
- Old metal boxes (we can reuse the typical cookies for example)
Go out to the field. Look around you. Search and find. Protect nature and its treasures. Approach with a curious look. And enjoy.
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