As parents, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a love for and time in nature.
Since moving to Japan, we’ve become attuned to the seasons based around the things we can gather and catch. Summer is long-awaited, and despite the abundance of mosquitoes, we look forward to the season as a time of beetle and cicada catching. In the fall, we look forward to gathering acorns and gingko leaves to turn into crafts and toys to proudly display on our shelves. In spring we go crabbing and in late summer we look for crayfish. And of course, in winter we dream of the advent of spring, all the while hoping for a rare glimpse of snow.
In nature, we see the natural rhythms and patterns of life. There are no “social constructs” or of “conditioning.” Nature is what it is; nature makes no excuses, there is no room for debate.
It is this kind of classroom that we want our children to learn the “bigger picture” and to see, experience and interact with the “laws of nature and of nature’s God.” It is in the natural world that we can seek out facets of the “Divine image” and to understand that we are a part of a larger ecosystem. In nature, everything has its place and role. It is where we might learn that the most harmful behavior is the kind that does not understand its place. The “invasive species” that live and eat without regard to its surrounding environment creates a blight that must be addressed. We can also see how it’s in the spaces where air and water aren’t able to flow and bring in change that things grow rotten.
Change and movement allow for growth. And, there is beauty in knowing how the smallest mosquitoes and even the microscopic bacteria underfoot contribute to the entire ecosystem.
It is because of this understanding that many of the FPA programs are designed in God’s greatest classroom, nature. It is here that things are not directly taught but rather become understood through observation and experience.
Whatever the season, parents can cultivate a love of nature in their children, through books, songs, stories but above all, through giving them the gift of experiences in nature.
Creating Healthy Family Habits: Seeking Truth in Nature
The steps to this activity are really very simple.
- First, plan out time for your family to take some time in nature. The setting doesn’t matter so long as it is in nature – the forest, a beach, a field – somewhere you can ‘study’ nature. The purpose of this time is one in which we seek out reflections of the “Divine Image” in nature.
- Take something for each person to take personal notes, questions, sketches, etc. While it’s fine to talk as you go along, you want to make sure that you don’t lose focus on the activity of investigating.
- Some general themes to observe:
What does nature need to grow?
- What limits growth?
- What are the different stages of growth?
- What is the general dynamic of life in an ecosystem?
- Did you observe important roles each species plays in the ecosystem?
- Did you observe instances where the energy did not flow (air, water) – what did that look like?
- If or when you observe “invasive species” – what are the qualities that make them invasive in that ecosystem?
- Then, to wrap up you want to take some time to share with one another your observations and questions. What patterns did you see?
This might be a bit awkward in the beginning and we encourage you to try it in different ways until it starts to feel more natural. For some people, it is like training a muscle and we need time and consistency to see or feel results.
It will also take time to be able to draw lines of connection between observations made about nature and the laws that govern nature and the laws that govern the human world. These types of shared experiences together as a family are important as they set a basis for which to later explain lessons from the natural world to our spiritual lives. The more we engage and learn to share and explore with one another about life, universal laws, growth and nature the easier it becomes to share on anything and everything else. We encourage you to treasure these moments and make efforts to make it a central part of your lives together as a family.
For all these reasons and more, this is an activity that can be repeated without end. In fact, all of the activities we include in this book is of that nature. And every time the activity is done, a new layer of knowledge, consciousness, skill, etc. is added – we ourselves have become different. In that way, every time we do an activity, in some sense we are different people from those who did the activity before!
This activity can be applied to many ages, including teens and older. Experience in nature can help detach from the distractions of life and connect to the divine.