Judging from my twitter feed, I am not the only one who has been doing 30 Days Wild in the company of children. I work in a primary school and although 30 Days Wild was always meant to be a project for my home life, I have found that it has made me more aware and appreciative of the wild things at school too. And seeing the wild through the eyes of a child is a wonderful thing.
On Friday morning, I heard shouting and turned to see two of the boys pointing and literally jumping up and down with excitement. When I saw what they were pointing at, I caught their enthusiasm. It was an unsuspecting frog, which I put in a large plastic tub and showed to the rest of the children. They couldn’t quite believe the way he hopped and swam with his webbed feet and slimy speckled skin. Eventually I set off across the school field with a few nominees to take the frog to our pond area. As they bumped him across the field in his box, they mused on questions like whether he had a frog family and how high he could jump. It brought back my own childhood memories of trying to catch frogs in my grandparents’ pond and that sense of wonder in seeing them up close.
Earlier in the week, we had discovered some moths on our classroom wall and researched them. Two boys in particular were enthralled and spent a long time writing labels for the moths with the teacher’s help. I had never really looked at a moth up close before and certainly had never seen any like this. We all tried to find the correct words to describe them: Fluffy? Feathery?
It was the same when we incubated some chicken eggs. The whole process was amazing to the children and they watched over the chicks as if they themselves were the mother hens.
Similarly, I was with the child I support when some young sparrows came out of the nesting box for the first time. We watched for ages, entranced as the fledglings flew and hopped around and explored their new environment, cocking their heads to one side as they looked back at us.
Rarely in an office full of adults does everything stop to watch an ant wander past, but in the playground this is an event worth paying attention to, as is the flight of a butterfly or picking up an interesting stick.
Children don’t just glance at a tree in passing, they want to climb it. They don’t just walk around a puddle, they jump right into it. They don’t just admire the grass, they want to run through it, barefoot and shouting. And if there’s a fallen branch, they want to pick it up and wave it, regardless of the fact that it is twice their size.
I remember when I was a child going for walks with my siblings and cousins in an old quarry near my Grandma’s house, which had basically become a large area of meadow, with hidden chalky paths that took you up and down the little hills and steeper cliffs. It was always an adventure, going up there. The walk also took us through woodland and past an old pill box which we could climb on top of and survey the view.
Doing 30 Days Wild is reminding me to look at the world in a fresh way, more like a child would, and not just to notice and observe but to jump right in. When I caught the scent of mint in the woods, I sought the plants out and smelt the leaves. Instead of just paddling in the sea, I swam. When it began to rain I left my car window open to feel the freshness. When I spotted the black tips of a hare’s ears in the long grass, I drew closer, and followed him further into the fields until I was a little lost and the sun was almost set.
What can you do this week to reclaim some of that wild child wonder?
P.S. I recently read a beautifully put article about the worldview of children, here, which is well worth a read.