To teach or not to teach? 

- This excerpt is taken from our “Hands-on and hearts-in nature” Teacher guide -

This name we have for ourselves - teacher - makes us feel we must be ‘teaching’. You know, as in the transmitting of knowledge, the deciding, planning, ‘extending’. Then there can be some sense of a knowable, showable outcome for this time immersed in nature. But for children to really make sense of the world they need to explore it on their terms. They can and will grow in the environment just by being in it, following where curiosity takes them, and using their hands and play urges to try out this and that. They don’t need us to teach. They know how to be in nature, and they know how to play. 

Magda Gerber and Piaget both offered wise words around this. She so powerfully and wisely said, “be careful what you teach. It might interfere with what they are learning”. And he said, “when you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself” (with the gendered language as a sign of his times). They both knew that we rob our children of opportunities if we are hasty to offer answers or solutions that they could make for themselves. We, The Heart School, say “let them amaze you”. Because honestly, if we step back, lose our agenda and let them follow theirs, they will amaze us. Astound us even. Every single day. 

Our role is more indirect than the term ‘teacher’ may suggest, but it doesn’t mean we do nothing. Our role is big. And so is the child’s. They’re not just there to catch what we dish out. They are with us to dream, create, imagine, manipulate, move, play, try, make mistakes, and through it all, find out who they are. Does that mean we never teach as in convey our knowledge to them? No, of course not, but the learning they do from us comes about within the context of relationships and in the moment interactions rather than from pre-planned outcomes and strategies 

There will be times we educate, letting our children know the how, why or what of something, but it doesn’t come off a lesson plan. It comes from a moment in a relationship when a nature dwelling child is curious, and we seize that moment, We support them in their quest to make some sense. We have a role there because they’ve offered it to us, and we go with it in the most natural, human-like way, rather than simply a ‘teacher-like’ way. In the back of this guide you will find reflective questions to help you explore your role as adult in the outdoors. 

If you want to read more, our new toolkit “Hands-on and hearts-in nature” is full of gems about reconnecting children with nature in early childhood. You can get it from our Heart Shop.

LINK: WORKSHOP - More information about our workshop “A Heart for Nature”, 25 June 2019.