Forty years ago, the newly created Dawn Publications put out a book called Sharing Nature with Children, which launched a mission we still carry on today: “inspiring in children a deeper understanding and appreciation for all life on Earth.” Shortly after, Dawn began publishing books for children, centered around connecting kids with nature.
Sharing Nature with Children author Joseph Bharat Cornell has gone on to create a worldwide movement with workshops, online trainings, and free educational offerings to teach people how to use his system to wake up both adults and children to the world around them.
“This is absolutely the best awareness-of-nature book I’ve ever seen. Sharing Nature with Children has become justly famous because it works.” — J. Baldwin, editor of Whole Earth Review
Here are three games that give you the flavor of Cornell’s nature-awareness program. All the information you need is free on his website. (Or if you want to purchase one of his Sharing Nature books, check them out here.)
Best for a big group: Owls and Crows
Part of Cornell’s flow learning category of “Awakening Enthusiasm,” this game is sure to work off some extra energy or nerves. Be mindful: it can get a little wild.
Split your group into two even teams and divide them with a rope on the ground. Each will have a home base with a red or blue bandana about ten feet behind them. Read out true or false statements (i.e, birds have teeth, insects have six legs).
The Owls chase the Crows when (they think) the statement is true. The Crows chase the Owls when (they think) the statement is false. If a player is tagged before she reaches home base, she joins the opposite team. (For full directions, click here.)
For one child or many: Sound Map
Part of the flow learning system that “Focuses Attention,” Sound Map has all the tools you will need to get kids listening…and rein in any wild energy.
Choose an area next to several habitats, such as a meadow and a stream. Sit down with a child and give him a piece of paper with an X marked in the center. This X represents where the child is sitting. Then have him mark the sounds he hears, judging the distance and direction. Use “fox ears” (cupping your hands behind your ears) to locate even more sounds. After five or ten minutes, compare how many sounds each of you heard and where you put them on the map. (For more detailed directions, click here.)
Intergenerational connections: Meet a Tree
Hugging a tree is a classic symbol of the environmental movement. But what really happens when you hug a tree? Well, partly it depends on what kind of attention you bring to the encounter.
Meet a Tree requires an even number of people and blindfolds. Participants will carefully lead their blindfolded partner to a tree and let them explore the texture, shape, and size. The blindfolded partner is then brought back to their starting place and asked to find the tree again. This is a great game to share between adults and children. (Find more in-depth suggestions here.)
As we celebrate our 40th anniversary, we are full of appreciation for Cornell’s pioneering work that introduced fun nature-awareness games to children—and kicked off our four decades of work in nature education. Thank you, Sharing Nature With Children!
(Photographs © Sharing Nature Worldwide)