Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Moral Life of Babies

"A growing body of evidence, though, suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. With the help of well-designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life. Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone. Which is not to say that parents are wrong to concern themselves with moral development or that their interactions with their children are a waste of time. Socialization is critically important. But this is not because babies and young children lack a sense of right and wrong; it’s because the sense of right and wrong that they naturally possess diverges in important ways from what we adults would want it to be."

The idea of "what we adults would want it to be" is ever-present in what we choose for our children. Perhaps we have a "right" a "duty" to explicitly choose. I think we do...but why?

Here's where I think this argument of children and nature is rooted in:
We want to (re)connect children to nature. But this is not because babies and young children lack a sense of connection to nature; it's because the sense of connection that they naturally possess diverges in important ways from what we adults would want it to be...

Why do we want to connect children to nature?

How do we want the connection to be different than what they already naturally possess?

Is it necessary to "teach" children how to be in nature?

What will be lost if children don't connect to nature in the way that---
we adults would want it to be?

Friday, May 7, 2010

So...is it talking?

I make an effort to walk down blocks where children are outside, playing.
Yesterday, I'm glad I did.

I met Diona and Dante. Diona is 5, Dante, well he's in 3rd grade so let's say 9. They had a lot of questions for me: where do you live? are you a teacher? how do you spell your name? what's your full name?

The meeting made me smile, but more importantly it would lead to what happened today:

I approached "the block" and about 20 people, half adults, half children, are out enjoying the weather. I almost didn't walk down the block, feeling like I would be intruding... but then I saw Diona -- so I thought it was safe: I had a connection!

I hear a mom call out, "Stop pulling on that tree!"

Three kids, including Diona were destroying a tree on their block, pulling the leaves off and yanking at the low hanging branches until they touched the sidewalk...

The demand didn't seem to stop them.

Me: Hi Diona

She looks at me, pretty puzzled...
my hair is up and I just got back from a run and didn't look like I did the other day.

Diona: What's your name again?

Me: "Beth"

I lean in closely to her and her "cousins" who are tearing at the tree and whisper:

"Hey, you know, that tree is alive..."

Cousin 1: IT IS???!?! -he immediately lets go of the branch and drops the leaves from his hands. They hit the cement.

Me: Yeah...

Diona: So... is it talking...?

Me: Well, yea and I mean, I bet if we could hear it, it would say stop pulling on me and ripping off my leaves...

I got 2 out of the three kids to stop... they seemed pretty intrigued with the idea of that tree being alive...

But there was still one who didn't seem to be listening.

Me: Diona, who's this? pointing at the kid still using the tree as a see-saw

Diona: That's my cousin...

Me: Well, tell your cousin that this tree is alive...

I walk away... I mean, the moms are like, who is this girl?

I look back and hear:
Diona: Hey, stop pulling on that tree - it's alive!

By the time I got to the end of the block - they were no longer hanging on the tree.

Friday, April 23, 2010

You're part of the life there

Have you ever wandered lonely through the woods?
And everything there feels just as it should
You're part of the life there
You're part of something good
If you've ever wandered lonely through the woods
if you've ever wandered lonely through the woods

Have you ever stared into a starry sky?
Lying on your back you're asking why
What's the purpose I wonder who am I
If you've ever stared into a starry sky
Have you ever stared into a starry sky

Have you ever been out walking in the snow?
Tried to get back to where you were before
You always end up not knowing where to go
If you've ever been out walking in the snow
If you'd ever been out walking you would know

Brandi Carlile


Children being disconnected to nature is a problem. So, we need to "fix" it.

The answer may be found in an old man and his dog, walking home for dinner as the sun light dapples across the ground. His wife, alone in the front yard is waiting for him.

Maybe it is no simpler than that.

I don't want to declare that I have the answers, I would rather ask questions...

and listen.

Run. Home. For Dinner.

Why is this one phrase so important to me? It symbolizes the many complexities in how children are being raised into one simple fragment.

Children don't run home for dinner anymore and here's why:

1. Run.
Kids are sitting more and running less. Sure, it is the obvious things: TV, computers, video games...But it may be the less obvious reasons that I'm more interested in. Children are never a lone. They are always with adults. "Run" implies a sense of freedom -- without limits or structure. Rooted in fear, and in some cases reasonably so, we don't open the door and let children go outside by themselves. If children are playing outside, they are running on soccer fields or running to the car to be taken to their extracurricular activities. They don't just run freely.

2. Home.
To Run Home, they have to be somewhere else. If they aren't outside in the first place, they won't be needing to run home. Many children are prisoners in their own homes since they can't go outside when their parents are at work. Many families may not get home to their kids until the sun sets. Moms and Dads come home exhausted from the day to children laying on the couch with a lot of untapped energy.

3. For Dinner.
There is no dinner on the table to run home to. Only 30% of Families eat meals together on a daily basis. In three decades, family meal time has decreased by 33%. These figures are almost a decade old themselves. These numbers are probably rising as fast as obesity prevalence.

So that's it? That's the end of the story? It will be if we don't do something about it.

I say,
1. Let kids run...alone.
2. Open the door
3. Set the table

and call them home for dinner...

Where have all the children gone?

I spent many childhood days running outdoors until I saw the sun fade into the horizon. It did not go completely dark at that point, I learned that there was still some light left in the day. And daylight meant one thing: I could play outside.

My parents and I had this agreement:
I was going to be around the neighborhood. They didn't always know exactly where --
I was either up the hill, in the building, down back, playing in the street, behind our house in the woods, in my fort, in Katie's driveway, the cul-da-sac, on my sidewalk, in the pine trees...

So long as it was light out, they knew where to find me: Outside.

So where are all the kids now? I look out my window and I don't see them.