August 15, 2013

Natural History Comes Alive for Homeschoolers

We are all school masters and our schoolhouse is the universe.  To attend chiefly to the desk or schoolhouse while we neglect the scenery in which it is placed is absurd.
-- Thoreau, Journal (October 15, 1859)

With Thoreau at Walden Pond, our muse and mentor
For the past two years I have delighted in guiding children and youth in discovering the ways and wonders of Concord's wild and historic landscapes.  Monthly and weekly field programs, offer each student the opportunity to learn about the natural world that surrounds their daily lives and to cultivate their own sense of place wherever they may live or travel.  Concord's incomparable natural history legacy, its breadth and depth of philosophical perspectives, and its preserved tracts of important ecological and historical lands provide an enriching context for this exploration and communion.

Honing confidence, cooperation, and observation skills while exploring an old heron rookery in White's Pond reservation
Whether feeling wonder from below, while lying under one of Concord's largest old growth pines, or finding perspective through a spotting scope high above the marshes at Great Meadows NWR, students come to recognize their own unique sensations and enthusiasms, learning styles, and creative responses to the encounters they experience within a living and dynamic environment.

During each field foray, we respond to whatever the moment and season offers us...  Walking like herons so not to disturb intently feeding birds during spring flooding, teaches much about balance, patience, and respect for fellow creatures.

Investigating blowdowns after Hurricane Sandy and experiencing the land's geologic history in Estabrook Woods, students learn about the impact of short and long-term changes on the landscape and how all inhabitants, including themselves, adapt to those changes.

Caterpillars, butterflies, and dragonflies are mentors of individual change and growth cycles and very close relationships between animal life and plant communities.  Caterpillar expert and educator, Sam Jaffe, lead us on a caterpillar foray last spring...a memorable experience of the wonders that are hiding in plain sight.

In winter, Concord's watery landscapes become a wonderland of ice forms and light paintings. Young winter explorers experience incomparable beauty while learning about crystal formations and the variety of conditions that produce the myriad patterns they encounter.  It is a season to appreciate the daily cycles of light, the lush growth of lichens on trees, and to marvel at earth star fungi and pink earth lichens adorning barren ground.  By the end of those cold months we're filled to the brim with their treasures.

The understanding of ourselves and our environment is nurtured through early heartfelt engagements with the natural world.  As our sense of intimate connection is deepened and our sense of wonder expanded, so too is our resolve to be mindful stewards.  Hope for the future may be fueled by these children's wild epiphanies.

For information and registration instructions for upcoming homeschool programs, please go to Natural History Programs for Homeschoolers.

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