Children in Nature
15 year old Anaya sounded pretty excited when I visited her Mom,Tanushree, a friend from College.
“Aunty, I’ve seen your cycling photographs on FB. Next time you have to take me along.”
“Of course! Why not?” I said with encouragement in the voice.
With a raised eyebrow,Tanu said with finality, “Anaya, that’s enough. Go to your room and continue with your exam preparations.”
As a sulking Anaya left the room, Tanu turned to me. “Don’t mind her words. You see at this age they get carried away easily. I’m so worried about her. She’s least interested in her studies.”
I was about to open my mouth to say something to straighten up perspectives but negated the possibility of my ideas making any difference considering Tanu’s state of mind. She was after all a single Mom, concerned for her only daughter’s future. The incident simply reopened the thought lines on an issue which bothers me on and off. Where does such one-track pursuit take us? Aren’t we leaving so many other joys undiscovered? Shouldn’t we, among other things, be making some room for Nature love as well? Shouldn't we make room for children in Nature.
In fact, life as we know it in today’s times has assumed contradictory connotations. We no longer see life simply as a celebration of our being. Instead it is all about ambition, rat race and getting ahead in it. Intentionally or unintentionally, we have pushed our children towards a lacklustre existence bereft of joys of childhood. Extreme competition has unadorned their hearts and minds of sense of Beauty and Awe. In fact, our children often bear the brunt of our own aspirations and that is where the anomaly sets in. We make them look at life in pages of books and that is where we handicap them into thinking, THIS is life and not the Marvel all around that is waiting for their curious glance.
The world that is waiting to unravel ts beauty at the caress of their sight and teach them about the intricacies of life and living while offering unconditional love spanning their entire lifetime.
It is quite assuring to observe that recognising the need to strengthen both mental and physical faculties at the same time, several schools around the world have already incorporated the concept of outdoor learning into their curriculum.
Education of Insight
Denmark introduced the concept of ‘Udeskole’ (outdoor school) back in 2000 for the 7-16 year old group. Education policy makers there have aptly realised the connection between human minds and stimulation created by nature.
Finland has been practising this since the 1950s with excursions and camp schools. The first ‘Nature School Centre’ was set up in 1986 and it has only grown since then.
Singapore started its similar journey in this field in 1967 with Dr. Goh Ken Suee’s ‘Outward Bound School’. The stress had been on facilitating holistic development with Nature stimulating creativity as well.
In India, ‘Shantiniketan’, established by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore and later expanded by his son Rabindranath Tagore is an immensely successful endeavour at facilitating learning (higher education) in a natural environment.
Such instilling of love for the outdoors and an appreciation of nature also empowers our children to look at life from a broader perspective.
In this context, it is heartening to observe that it has been felt in concerned quarters in India as well, the need to reduce the burden of school curriculum. Present day curriculum aims to facilitate all round development of children. Hence it has sought suggestions regarding ‘inclusion of sports, life skills and experiential learning along with creative skills’.
However talking of the present, the situation in India is alarming, to say the least. The Indian society has been making an unwelcome transition from indigenous to adventitious ideas – of the West. Blind emulation is disengaging us from our roots. We do have more confident and assertive individuals but mostly, more miserable than before.
Give me some sunshine…..
How do you otherwise explain WHO figures asserting India as one among nations with high depression rates among children? In fact, 1 in 4 children in the age group 13 – 15 years is said to be suffering from depression. WHO report also says 10 – 20% children and adolescents are suffering from mental disorders worldwide, that there is 1 teen suicide every 100 minutes and even 3 year olds are affected by depression. Alarming, to say the least!
While these children deal with their own insecurities, they assume either too loud or too quiet personalities, to assert themselves in or to keep away from what they are unable to comprehend. Somehow we have omitted teaching our kids the kind of coping skills so essential to survive in such chaotic times. Not surprisingly, a low level of parental engagement was one among the many causes cited, of depression among children. Parental engagement helps our buds blossom and thrive
The vulnerable minds of our little ones easily get drawn towards the wild and untamed. What perhaps makes the situation more alarming is that this present generation of growing children will lead tomorrow’s lot. Wonder what they would be able to pass on as lessons of life!
RAYS OF HOPE
Hence it is a do or die situation for the present generation of Parents who have perhaps grown up with the Birds and Trees and have been nurtured in the lap of Nature, in innocence and in Beauty, that we instil in our children, love for the outdoors.
‘I took a walk in the Woods and came out taller than the trees,’ wrote H D Thoreau.
Surely, there’s a world of significance in those words.
India, in general and the North Eastern Region, in particular have been fortunate enough that Nature has been magnanimous in its bestowal upon us. The babbling streams, the glorious Sunrays, the bright blue sky, the magnificent mountains, the gurgling rivers – we have them all. And yet we mostly tend to make our children see such grandeur in pages or on screens rather than in real.
What if we could channelize that restless energy towards all things bright and beautiful instead? What if we could instil values by letting them observe Nature from close quarters from a young age? As Parents, we could attempt to bring about in our children an inclination towards Nature and instill, in the process, a realization regarding the immense magnificence all around.
Give them – YOUR TIME. Introduce them to the thrill of cycling downhill with the winds, of trekking amidst snow clad mountains or in a valley of flowers, camping under a starlit sky, rafting on untamed waters of some gurgling river, experience together an atmosphere brimming with adventure and thrill amidst Nature.
Do you think they would respond? I think it is an idea worth trying. I’m optimistic, from experience, children respond to such positive parenting.
The realisation and the trend have in fact already set in. What is perhaps the need of the hour is to bring more and more children out under the sun and the onus primarily lies on parents and school authorities.
Let’s lighten the burden off the backs and minds of our children. Let them be the sunflowers to bloom and play in the direction of Light. Strengthening such Bond with Nature will steer these impressionable minds towards strength and positivity. And that, I strongly believe, will prepare them to enjoy the Easy while coping with the Difficult days ahead.
Let’s teach our children to LIVE the JOYFUL WAY.
Written bySangeeta Bhattacharjee
Sangeeta Bhattacharjee is an Educator, Media Professional, Sports & Adventure Enthusiast. Travelling is her Passion along with Writing. She is also associated with her Husband’s adventure tourism-based company Natventure (https://www.facebook.com/natventureindia/), Guwahati. With a perpetual positivism towards life, Sangeeta believes in discovering something new at every unexpected twist that Life has to offer.