Saturday, August 22, 2015

Joy of Discovery

Here she points out a skull on our deer head trail.
My granddaughter was staying with us for the summer, so we were excited for the chance to expose her to increase her comfort in being outdoors.  Her normal life is that of the suburbs..... full of roads, cars, buildings, people, etc.  This summer was different.
Our routine involved daily walks in the woods.  She happily traversed the nearly one mile trail with her grandpa and the two dogs. Along the way, Grandpa would take the time to point out something they had seen the day before or find something new   That’s the nice thing about nature....there is always something new.  Something to learn.  And she was eager to learn.

Whether it was a flower, tree, bug or bird, she would come back to the house after each hike, race to find me, and share with great excitement the things they had discovered along the trail.  Part of it was the joy of discovery, but part also was pride in her growing competence.  Sometimes when I would walk with her she would point to something and shout, “Look! There’s a......”  And it didn’t have to be anything big, like a deer or bear.  It could be something as simple as a Black-eyed Susan or Question Mark Moth.

I had read, and realize from my experience with her, that a child will experience the joy of discovery if the adult shares an appreciation of nature with genuine enthusiasm.  As Rachel Carson once wrote: “If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” So I realize, this is what we did all summer long.

One time, early in her stay, I saw a Wheel Bug on the screen.  When she saw it, she said, “Ugh”....a response probably learned  from other kids in her daycare.  But in an effort to dismiss this attitude,  I looked at it closely and said, “What a neat bug!”. I didn’t know if it would work, but when Grandpa came into the room a little later, she cried, “Grandpa, there’s a neat bug!”  She became fascinated with insects and even started her own insect collection.  As luck would have it,  this year, the 17 year Periodical Cicada emerged, and she became obsessed with pointing out every one she saw. We were constantly stopped on one hike with shouts of “Look!” There were so many cicadas along that trail!.  

So the first lesson I learned this summer from my granddaughter:  Enthusiasm for nature really is contagious.

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