Every nature educator needs a village. Or at least I do. Without a village what I do out in the field becomes significantly less meaningful. The hunter goes out to provide food for the people, the scout observes the outskirts to keep her community safe, the tracker gathers the information from the land so the village can thrive.
Unfortunately our current villages/cities don’t usually have a place for these skills. There aren’t many people close by who can or want to talk at length about what the coyote’s are eating this month, which harvesting technique seems to be working best, or which kinds of birds seem to have increased numbers this year. That can be hard on a lonesome nature educator. I think that’s one reason I love my work with the kids so much. With the kids and my co-workers I have a village to share the stories of the land with.
Luckily, I got to experience the joy of having a nature based village several times this month. Once at the Buckeye primitive skills gathering and then again during our home-school, year end camp-outs just last week. For a few days we set up our tents, sharing food, skills, music and stories around the fire together.
The fact that we were a multi-aged group made it even better in both instances. The kids naturally flow in and out of learning experiences with each other, teens and elders who are really just doing their daily activities, following their curiosities. Now, that’s my kind of school!
I must say I notice a huge difference between youth programs that stand alone and those that function as a part of a larger community. By this I don’t mean programs that belong under an umbrella of a bigger organization (sometimes those are the most isolated from community.) For the kids, seeing older and younger kids participating alongside with them allows them to be both role-models and have something to look up to. For the instructors, working together and sharing ideas brings about more creativity and is really just more fun.
I’m so excited that we are going to have nature programs from age 3 to 15 happening here in the Fairfax area next year. This will also be the fourth year many of the participants are in the same programs! It really makes for a deeper experience.
I do hope to see the day when the kids can come home to an even bigger village fire that wants to hear and value the stories of the land. Hmm..maybe we should do a presentation for the Fairfax Town Council next year, who knows?