The day of our nature walk had arrived, and the children excitedly stuffed their backpacks with all they would need for their adventure. Binoculars, bug nets, thermoses, markers, nature journals, and much more made their way into their bags. They wanted to be prepared for anything and everything and couldn’t wait to explore the great outdoors.
The task was simple. Notice God’s beautiful world.
Sure, we had played at the park almost every week. Sure, they had spent hours for days on end in the backyard, imagining their own adventures with self-made tents and hiking gear.
But today was different. I wanted them to pay attention. I wanted them to observe the simple and beautiful miracles that lived just outside our doors.
I handed them their journals and let them pick a spot on the grass to sit on.
Close your eyes and just listen. What do you hear?
Little smiles crept on their faces as they listened to the bees buzzing, birds calling, and the rustling leaves of a nearby tree. We sat there in silence for a few minutes and soaked in the orchestra of nature.
Now, open your eyes. Look around you. What do you see?
They peered at the tree above them, the birds overhead, and the clouds that formed a gallery of pictures before their very eyes. They then got on their hands and knees to search the grass and dirt for all of its wonderful treasures.
“Look, Mommy!” they’d squeal as they discovered the ants carrying their food home, a black bug we later learned was a black bee, colorful butterflies, and a large wasp that was bigger than their hands.
I handed them their notebooks and let them capture what they saw through drawings and words. They sat for a few minutes and filled a couple of pages with their finds.
They then walked by the lake, exploring the muck, leaving tiny kid footprints along the shore.
They watched little turtle heads pop out of the water, then disappear into the shadows. They watched a large white heron stand proudly on a protruding rock, tiny fish swimming to and fro, and a family of ducks waddling before them into the sparkling water. It was a wonderland!
We walked for just over an hour as their squeals and questions filled the silence.
How do they breathe underwater?
What do herons eat?
What is that black bug?
Can I touch the mud with my hands?
What do clouds feel like?
How did that wasp get so big?
Did God make it all, Mommy?
How did He do that?!!
We talked and shared and continued our discoveries at home on the computer, watching videos and pictures of what we had explored in our own “backyard.”
I understood then–why it was so important to let them explore outdoors, why it was so important to give them the opportunity to stop and notice the details in nature. I had read Charlotte Mason’s ideas and had even worked around it in our curriculum My Father’s World. I thought it was enough to let them play outside. I thought it was enough to take story time outside on the grass or enjoy snacks on the deck. But it wasn’t. I needed to create the opportunity for them to notice as well.
And as they walked about, looking in awe at all of the beautiful creatures in God’s world, I got to notice, too. I got to notice them.