Connecting to nature is not about scale

“What mattered to my father (Edward Kennedy) was not the scale of an accomplishment, but that we did our share to make the world better,” Kara Kennedy.

Kara Kennedy died today. I know this because of an NPR headline that I saw my iGoogle page. Were it not for that fact I would not have become aware of that quote. It is a quote that struck me and that inspired me to type up this brief post.

When we undertake projects it is easy to get trapped by grand visions into a position where we do nothing. I know that I am often guilty of this. My ideas far out reach my abilities to enact them in any given moment. Because I can’t achieve the picture I see in my mind, I fail to attempt anything at all. I think nearly all people have to face and then ignore the grand vision in favor of the small thing that they can do right now.

So what does this have to do with a nature blog?

It has to do with the fact that in order to connect others to nature and to stay connected to it ourselves we must just begin.

For example, when I was teaching in the classroom I didn’t have all that many chances to interact with nature. There were two main reasons for this. The first had to do with my lack of confidence in my classroom management skills and my fear that I would not be able to control 20 something wild teenagers once they were not corralled by four walls. The second was, at the time, the curriculum didn’t cover nature all that much. Even so, I found ways. For example, to teach microscope skills, I brought water from different ponds and water types, fresh, saline and hyper saline, for kids to examine. This helped my students see that the kind of water and the location of the water would affect what was found in it. It was a tiny connection to the nature in our city. Many of my kids had never been to beach much less to some of the other water bodies that I gathered samples from. It was a big deal to them to see it and it sparked questions. Questions are a form of connection.

At the time, I thought this activity was too small to matter. In light of the quote above I realize it does matter. It matters a lot. I did connect kids (and myself) to nature in our city. I can even see how I would scale it up the next time by asking kids to bring bottles of water from places near their homes that collect water. It could be standing water in a puddle or a pond or a beach. Doesn’t matter. The thing is that the kids would be looking at their microscopic neighbors. And after all, aren’t we all curious about who lives next door? Yet another connection.

So, in the end, it wasn’t the scale of the activity that was important, it was the nature of it. I wanted, with limited time and resources, to connect kids to nature in the city and I found a way to do so. You can also begin where you are to connect yourselves and your kids to the natural world around you. The operative thing to remember:

It is “not the scale of an accomplishment, but that we did our share to make the world better,” Kara Kennedy.

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