Why is nature study so important?

September 10, 2015

Why is Nature study so important & emphasized so much by

Rudolph Steiner ( Waldorf Education) & Charlotte Mason?

I was born in the bronx, when I was 8 years old my family moved to “upstate NY” in Rockland County, our property backed up to state park land. I remember waking up & going out hiking and not coming back until dusk sometimes. I craved nature so much. The woods humored me with lizards under rocks, streams to discover, deer to chase etc. One time we found a pile of old wood & nails, so naturally we built a stage to invite our parents to come and watch our plays we enacted. I think this saved me and made me who I am.

My children are now growing up on our organic farm in northern california with a seasonal creek & just about every livestock animal you could think of. We do farm camp every summer here, it feeds my soul to offer the wonder & connection to children that I so remember needing as a child. But why? Why is it good? Why is part of curriculum for so many children?

-Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration. (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005; Ginsburg et al., 2007) 

-Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008) 

-The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11. (Wells and Lekies, 2006)

From a Waldorf perspective, one tries to present to one’s children a picture of the wondrous inter-relatedness of the various systems of the human body, helping our children appreciate that we are greater than the sum of our various parts. We infuse our study of the body – and of all subjects – with an artistic approach which helps a child understand that ‘knowing’ something is not simply a case of having memorized facts, but rather that various people’s artistic experiences and interpretations of phenomena are just as important. So when we study weather, for instance, Shelly’s poem Ode to the West Wind can be just as important to help children get a sense for the weather as memorizing the Beaufort Scale.

Art and science are never divorced in Waldorf education. And it is not that one merely takes an artsy approach to teaching science, but that one takes an artistic approach. Being artistic is about being open-ended, flexible and creative in one’s search for a living way to teach one’s children. It means, for instance, not just reading text books about plants, labeling a few diagrams and perhaps pressing a few leaves for a scrapbook. It means squatting down with a clipboard and colored pencils in a wet spring wood, drawing skunk cabbages, smelling their smell and really feeling – sensing – the surrounding of that plant, understanding something of its role in nature. It means bringing that sense of awe to all one’s science studies and thereby getting a glimpse of the order and purpose of life.” -christopherushomeschool.org

Charlotte Mason seems to also agree with Rudolph Steiner’s Waldorf approach on nature being vital. Looking at it as not only important for the subject of teaching science but also understanding ourselves. Here is a list of quotes from Charlotte Mason. According to Charlotte Mason:

– Nature study lays the foundation for formal science studies (Vol. 3, p. 281).

– Nature study makes science interesting. Charlotte lamented, “For the most part science as she is taught leaves us cold” (Vol. 6, p. 318). But a child who has the advantage of nature study, an “appreciative knowledge of things to begin with,” can easily reach the “living science” level (Vol. 3, p. 77).

– Nature study increases your child’s capacity to understand the unknown. “By-and-by he will have to conceive of things he has never seen: how can he do it except by comparison with things he has seen and knows?” (Vol. 1, p. 66).

– Nature study cultivates a love of investigation. And Charlotte encouraged mothers to “infuse into” our children, “or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation” (Vol. 1, p. 71).

– Nature study gives your child a sense of ownership and stewardship of the Earth. “Here is a duty that lies upon us all; for we all enter on the inheritance of the heavens and the earth, the flowers of the field and the birds of the air. These are things to which we have right, no one can take them from us; but, until we get as much as a nodding and naming acquaintance with the things of Nature, they are a cause rather of irritation and depression than of joy” (Vol. 4, Book 2, p. 97).

– Nature study prepares your child’s heart to worship God. “From the flower in the crannied wall to the glorious firmament on high, all the things of Nature proclaim without ceasing, ‘Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty’ ” (Vol. 4, Book 2, p. 100).

– Nature study enriches your child’s life. “A love of Nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humour” (Vol. 1, p. 71).

-Nature study increases your child’s intellect and makes him a more interesting person. “Consider, too, what an unequalled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun — the powers of attention, of discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing with his growth, what will they not fit him for?” (Vol. 1, p. 61).

What touches me the most is the need for our children to grow a love and reverence for the earth. They are going to inheret it. I’m a tree hugger and I want my kids to be treehuggers because the earth needs more treehuggers. In addition to the love of the natural world, earth teachs them about life and I’m not sure if there is anything more important than teaching my children about life.

By admin