Rachel Carson, in her best-selling environmental classic, “A Sense of Wonder,” writes that “for the child, and for the parent…it is not half as important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.”
One way to awaken your child’s senses about the wonders of the earth is to find a special place in nature called a “sit spot” It can be in a backyard, beneath a shady tree, by a stream along a trail, in a favorite park, or anywhere else where your child can take a little bit of time to get to know everything about that chosen place.
The environmental activity book, “Keepers of the Earth,” by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac, notes that a sit spot can help us find a sense of place and enhance sensory awareness skills. I have a few beloved sit spots, especially in the summer when I can travel to a marsh or to the rising tide, but, locally, I can head over to a mossy rock by a stream to listen to the Red-Winged Blackbird chirp a crackly greeting overhead in the pine tree.
As a kid, I often gravitated to the backyard patio where I could observe everything from busy ant mounds to falling horse chestnuts. Children will easily find their own sit spot. It can be a place where they enjoy exploring while feeling safe and comfortable. This spring, as we approach Earth Day celebrations, the sit spot is a way for appreciation of our natural environment to become especially meaningful.
Once you and your child find a sit spot, try to:
Become an ant. Lie on your stomach with your eyes close to the ground. Some people refer to this as a “micro-hike!” Imagine that you are an ant crawling upon the soil. What does it look like and what does it feel like? What do you hear? Later, draw a picture or write how you felt as an ant!
Sit upright and be as still as possible. Pretend that you are blending in with nature around you. What insects or birds come close to you?
Choose one plant growing at your sit spot and examine it closely. It could be part of a large tree or a tiny blade of grass. Get to know its scent and its texture.
Write a poem or draw a picture on a small rock or flat piece of bark. Then place the rock or bark face down as “a gift to the Earth.”
Lie on your back and close your eyes during a visit to the sit spot and become absorbed with the surrounding sounds.
Walk around and collect any litter that may have turned up at your special place.
Older children might want to learn the names of some of the plants that grow there and why they grow there.
Think about how your sit spot is a habitat or shelter for other living creatures.
Experiment with making outdoor art, such as rock and pebble sculptures, using only found objects within your reach.
Visit your spot at different times of the day and during different seasons!
Tell stories, through writing or drawing or both, about your sit spot in a journal or sketchbook.
Make many return visits!
Do you have a favorite local sit spot? Please tell us where in the comment section below.