Along with my friends and fellow guides Scott Davidson and Lindsey Mitchell, I went with a group of parents and sixth-grade students from a local charter school for a day of nature connection at Abbott's Lagoon in Pt. Reyes National Seashore. I learned about Abbott's Lagoon from Scott, who is an expert tracker. It's a perfect place for semi-supervised fun and for getting involved with a wide variety of tracks of many species...the wind-packed sandy substrate is idea and holds tracks well, and there are many to hold. Bobcat, coyote, otter, deer, fox, various bird species, amphibians, mice... the landscape offers many detailed stories in a way that is much easier to read than in forest or just about any other environment.
There were about two kids per adult, which gave us a great opportunity to do some mentoring with the parents...with the focus being how to mentor the children. The mentoring strategy we use has as a main goal strengthening the child's connection with those things that capture her imagination. We follow these natural "child passions" by noticing what the child is interested in, joining with that child by getting interested ourselves, and then asking questions that deepen curiosity and hone observational skills. There is very little emphasis on giving answers or dispensing knowledge. Simply dispensing a fact with the voice of an expert can actually extinguish the sense of wonder that is at the heart of nature connection. So we begin with easy questions, such as "what do you notice about how it looks?" and then move into more difficult "edge" questions--questions that take the child just beyond the edge of what is obvious or what they already know. We may ask, "How do think these shells got here?" and support the child's thinking process when they realize we are a couple of hundred yards from high tide line. Coming to a "correct" conclusion is less important that engaging in inquiry. Leaving questions unanswered (but alive!) is a part of the fun.
Leave a Reply.
Amos Clifford, Guide and Restorative Council Mentor; trainer in restorative justice, restorative dialogue with nature, and circle-keeping and the way of council; mentor.