From time to time, more often in the warmer months, our group will come across other nature lovers wandering the woods. Couples, dog walkers, families. I sometimes wonder after they have passed us, what our group must look like from the outside. What do others see?
Do they assume we are just playing? Perhaps they wonder about the stick circle we have made or the calling out of “40 out!” as we commence a game of forest stealthiness. Mostly, I don’t concern myself with the musing of others. Particularly, in a sun-drenched forest immersed in a group discussion about the texture of moss. I don’t have to wonder what we are doing. I don’t need to question the value of our work together. I have already seen it evolve.
Just like the intricate web of living things in the forest is interconnected and interdependent, using the mycorrhizal network beneath our feet, our own learning in the same spaces mirrors this grand design. I have often said that learning operates like a living organism. It can start from a single cell, the initial idea or catalyst, and, under the right circumstances, begin to expand and multiply. Idea after idea breathing in more life, moving around the structure. In our groups, the children are the source of the learning life. Each child, a completely different cell of ideas that collides with the existing structure. The learning adapts, it contours itself to fit the new dynamic, it grows. We grow. Infinitely.
The collective breath of our learning in a steady rhythm of give and take.
When we gather our group by the edge of a gently rushing river and ask them to close their eyes, sit in silence and listen, we have a plan. When we task them to disperse themselves and find a rock that calls to them to be picked up along that same riverbed, we have a plan. When we gather them back as a group and ask them to place their rocks in the center of our circle and, in turn, share what drew them to that particular rock, we have a plan.
You see, science, as a discipline is essentially wondrous. In order for it to maintain the momentum of discovery, someone, somewhere, needs to wonder.
- Why do my ears hear the sound of water over the sound of wind?
- Why do I like the weight of this rock in my hand? (Observation)
- How does the eagle ride the wind?
- What is in the snow aside from frozen water?
- Why do these questions matter to me? (Reflection)
- How can I answer these questions? (Investigation)
What exactly are we doing out in those woods when you see us?
Expanding, growing, making connections as innately as the roots under us, feeding our own learning lives but mostly, we’re cultivating wonder. Creating the next generation of scientists that can walk the line between the magic of the natural world and the logic of the intellectual self because, In the space between those two faculties, lies the cell of a promise for a better future.