4 Lessons I Learnt From Nature School

Over the years I’ve found inspiration comes from many sources. Photography, film, people and literature – All have the power to shape lives and light an internal fire. I’ve often found illumination in the adventurous journeys of others; ones that share a chronicle of a life lived fully. Yet, up until recently I’d barely thought to look towards the much younger generation as a source of inspiration. Maybe it’s because I’m not a father yet and my time spent with children as a whole has been limited to the rare experiences I’ve had with my nephew.

The catalyst for this post smoldered inside me as I drove home from a day spent with 4 to 9 year olds at Grow Your Own Nature School in Bath. GYOS is a beautiful and humbling education project. Set amongst the serene hills of the Cotswold’s the focus of the nature school is to develop social and emotional skills, promote child led projects and incorporate social and environmental sustainability into their learning. All this is done within the framework of leadership and inspiring staff that use nature and the outdoor experience as their classroom.

I’d arrived with my pre-planned delivery of the Yukon expedition story. I was primed to spark fire in the hearts of a new band of explorers and illuminate the beacon of adventure and worldly curiosity. As I stood in front of the children and we began to speak I soon became aware of their already passionate and collective interest in the outdoors. Little did I know that this was no ordinary school and that I was about to get a crash course in living and learning from children 28 years my junior, here’s why:

1)    Gratitude

When my talk was finished the children shared one thing they were grateful for whilst holding a wooden stick. The stick represents the child’s chance to speak without group interruption and for the others to respect this moment (A Native American tradition). At lunch we sang songs around the fire giving thanks for the food and nature. Also at the end of the day the kids shared one person they were grateful for and one word that expressed how they felt in that moment. Gratitude became the wonderful thread holding the happiness together.

 2) Curiosity

Throughout the day the children continued to inspire me with their vibrancy and endless curiosity for the world. There was a fearlessness and endeavor to their questions that I adored. In everything I sensed inquisitiveness and a desire for understanding. In an adult world full of responsibility and social pressure sometimes we forget to always remain curious and interested in other people and the world. To do this with a child like sense of wonder can only impact our lives in a beautiful way.  

 3)    Acknowledgement

Once the talk had come to a close the children acknowledged, whilst holding the wooden stick, their individual thanks and appreciation for what they enjoyed most about the Yukon story. It was humbling to find that some of the most interesting aspects of the story were those moments of risk and challenge. I sensed growth in not only the children’s awareness but in my appreciation of those virtues of patience, listening and acknowledgement.

4)    Nature, The Worlds Best Teacher

Nature is the greatest teacher and the outdoors is the finest classroom. From the short time I spent with these children I was humbled to see how this nature based free play and outdoor learning was positively impacting these children to a degree I’d rarely seen. I witnessed happiness and a free state of spirit in this diverse play experience that I’m sure could only contribute to their healthy development. It appeared that their time spent outdoors and their gratitude for nature was the ultimate framework for their educational and emotional growth.

Anna, one of the founders said it beautifully: “We very much feel that pioneering the Green House Education Project approach to living and learning has and is a wild adventure, driven by an invisible call to finding a better way, to live, to be, to learn and to raise the next generation for a better, more compassionate, connected and peaceful world.”

Amen to that.