Sunday, December 13, 2009

Outdoor Education

No Child left's actually a movement! Have we devolved so quickly from the fabric that supports us to become aliens to the basics? I've heard a story told by the Wampanoag about someone who surrounded themselves with tools and ceremonies designed to ward off the imperfect things of the Universe. In this effort, he lived in constant fear and condemned the folks in the village who had the ignorance to believe the Universe was made perfectly. He ended up bringing those things upon him that he feared the most. It is a powerful story of how ones focus determines their reality. The Maine Primitive Skills School shares tools of empowerment in the guise of a survival school, a tracking school, a community, a place to be with "like minded" people...whatever that means. Truth be told, it is a vehicle to unlock, awaken, gently slap the back of the head of all of the gifts that lay dormant from years of childhood chastizement. Don't play in the mud! Don't stick your fingers in things! We don't have time for that! Well meaning and overstressed adults actually believed that a whole human being developed from sitting for hours and learning out of a book....when we know unequivocally that the whole being has to be engaged in experiences with some emotional investment in order to really learn. I know many public educators who are left with no other response to, "Why do we have to learn this", than to say, "You'll need it for next year". Many even respond with disciplinary actions instead of really searching for ways to design experiences that alow these kids to truly be with how the skills they are learning apply to them. One of our elders, Ingwe, once said, "the wilderness holds all truth and knowledge". No matter how hard we train, how many degrees we earn, or how much dirt time we have with our students, we can never hold all truth and wisdom. We are the doorway. Rather, that is what we are supposed to be, but in not truly knowing what this means, we close the door and pull the shades on our youth, opting for the laptop, the standardized test, and the brilliant images of nature on the electronic screen at the expense of the back yard. So many folks have been condtioned by years of tools and ceremonies designed to keep them "safe" from the out of doors that, like the man in the Wampanoag story, they have found themselves in a "reality" of fear and dis-ease. In the face of irrifutable data showing how healthy wild edibles, direct sunlight, and outside air are, we wrap ourselves in climate control and cower in the fear of catching poison ivy, lymes disease, west nile, swine flue, rabies, and so many other threats just waiting to snuff us out lest we venture from our dimly lit, stale air filled abodes in to the beauty and lesson filled real and natural world.
There is another way.