Did you know that in the days of your great-grandparents the inclusion of nature instruction in school was a serious concern? Many of you have read a bit of Charlotte Mason’s books or A Girl of the Limberlost or Freckles. Some of you even own Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study, though for many of us it is collecting dust daily.
Did you know that in days gone by, students routinely went on nature walks at all times of the year? They learned about the animals, trees, insects, stars, rocks, and weather, and they learned about them in great detail through daily observation, daily lessons, and daily application.
What has happened in the years since? Has nature grown less amazing? Is it less magnificent and less important these days to notice colors, sounds, smells, designs, and all the beauty that is free just for the taking? Is it less important to one’s well-being to have times of quiet solitude in beautiful surroundings? Is it less interesting now to be swept away with the beauty of the night sky or go owl watching together? What has happened?
In the classroom, it could be that the topic itself is slowly escaping from many school curricula. In our present culture, the Creator has been removed from the traditional classroom. With His departure, much of the wonder and amazement with which teachers eagerly tied Him to has been left out as well.
Take, for example, the simple adventure of walking outdoors and collecting a few specimens of tree leaves. Careful observation could disclose that there are those with beautiful red stems and others with the palest of greenish-brown ones. For many young students, finding that each of these different, beautiful leaves belongs to a particular kind of tree might be an awesome discovery. Yet, in many traditional classrooms, the entire process has been reduced to “memorize twenty leaf formations and the test is Friday.” The students are left wondering, “Why? Why should we study this?” Because appreciation of the beauty and carefulness with which the Creator has made each and every natural thing is left out of the teaching, there no longer seems to be a good reason to learn about such things. Wonder and amazement have just evaporated from most nature lessons.
And all this while everything out there – from the stars in the sky, to the minute worlds inside a single drop of pond water, to the cells in a blade of grass – shouts the praises of the One who spoke it all into being. Yes, perhaps we should break away a while from our televisions, video games, soccer games, and central heating and air conditioning to once again acquaint ourselves with the great outdoors! We have become more and more an indoor-dwelling people, and we’ve not noticed that so much of what speaks of the greatness of our God has therefore been closed out of our lives and out of the lives of our children. The very topics that used to be taught enthusiastically to both the tiniest child and the student of higher education are no longer on the agenda or are taught only from textbooks, rarely through personal adventures.
Even in our homeschooling we are hesitant these days to get outside and find safe places to examine what has been made. We just don’t take the time, because we’ve forgotten how vitally important this activity really is!
Many of us don’t live on acreage with ponds and meadows to scout out, and it is more difficult for some to find safe parks and places to explore. Yet, if we truly believed that taking time to get out into nature was critically important, wouldn’t we have a new desire to pray for and seek out special spots to view the natural wonders that are close at hand? Even in the heart of city life, one can find so many great examples of natural phenomenon, and nature is always as close as our own backyard.
We even know one family who strolled through cemeteries, enjoying lovely trees of all kinds, ponds, flowers, birds, insects, and more with their children.
If you believe in the need, you will find a way, so here are seven extra special reasons to get up and get out!