Well I never expected it to take this long to get to the second principle of from David Sobel’s book, Childhood and Nature. (For more on where this started, visit here and here). But, life gets crazy and, interestingly enough, it seems that I am revisiting the second principle of this investigation just when it seems to be reaching a heightened relevance to our own lives, so this will provide the opportunity to write a bit about how we are doing this kindergarten at home thing, for those of you that are curious.
So what do Fantasy and Imagination have to do with fostering a love of nature and earnest desire to care for the earth? Everything! Sobel opens a discussion of the second principle with a tale of his own family’s voyage to a castle laden land. He recounts how an agenda of tours and history lessons snuffed the flame of his childrens’ interest, which, fortunately, was re-lit by a magical storyteller and the opportunity for the children to freely explore and create their own magical world amongst the castle walls, independent of historical accuracy . I bet this scenario is familiar to us all, where interest wanes when teaching begins. It is perhaps our agenda to teach about the earth and our failure to prioritize fantastic and imagined interpretations of our surroundings that defeats our most valiant efforts to foster an appreciation of nature.
The power of imagination is central to our family’s exploration of nature. Sobel’s ideas resonate strongly with our approach, which derives from intuition and our chosen homeschool philosophy, Enki. Enki rightly views the world as being unimaginably vast and larger than what can be conceived of through the senses, and while the senses of observation are regarded as invaluable, they are not regarded as the only tools for understanding what is around us. Enki includes imagination, intuition and insight as other vital senses that help us understand the world. This may be a tough leap for us traditionally educated adults to make–we learn about the world through science, and science is about observation! But if we stretch a bit we can see how these vital senses are the foundation of most spiritual, artistic and scientific advances. Indeed the sun would likely still be revolving around the earth if Galileo had not employed his senses of imagination, intuition and insight. It is easy to see how these senses were essential to all great discoveries.*
Now back to our world of little people. If we can accept imagination as a sense used to understand what we experience, it is easy to see how central it is to the understanding of the natural world, for, hopefully, all of us have experienced the magic of a walk in the woods. To appreciate the natural world, children must feel an emotional connection to the complex phenomena that define the workings of the natural world. Children can “see” these phenomena as the work of living forces. While King Summer ushers in summer with his demanding presence, calling out for his symphony of bird song, Duchess Autumn, with a quiet but powerful magic, tosses out gentle breezes turning corn golden, setting the forests ablaze, and calling the sun down to an early night’s rest. *
As we walk through the forest this fall, we look for the work of Duchess Autumn. The hunt for her comes alive. We can feel her in the chilly air, we see where she has painted the forest. We also notice where King Summer is lingering longer, where the leaves are still green, where the birds still sing, where the sun still beats strong. These characters create a far greater presence of nature to our wee folk than a discussion of the ins and outs of why the seasons change . The time will come to understand how it all works, but the seeds of appreciation must be laid in the fertile bed of imagination.
Sobel succinctly states “our role as storytellers and world creators precedes our role as imparters of knowledge and cultural heritage.” May we all tell many stories and create worlds anew every day.