If you look carefully, the snowdrops can be seen peeking from their beds in the fallen leaves in our woods. This afternoon, on a journey of discovery with the Pre School on their weekly woodland walk, I found out about “thinking brains”, “seeing eyes” and “listening ears”. All of the senses needed to embrace the joy and wonder of the world around us. And even more so when immersed in the natural world. The excitement that they exuded when discovering the emerging carpet of snowdrops was a joy to behold.
We quickly become separated from that natural world and from the use of those senses that help to hear, see and feel that which surrounds us. It is now becoming a common-place commentary on the ills of modern life that young people, children, are cocooned from those stimuli that will connect them with the real world. And with that cocooning comes, possibly, an associated de-skilling in communication, empathy and curiosity.
To unwrap that cocoon we have a range of tools that become increasingly more complex and subtle. Emotional Intelligence, Philosophy for Children and Habits of Mind are frameworks which provide a language and mindset that, as children get older, allow us to explore the development of deeper cognitive and emotional skills and understanding. Yet the most effective way to get to the heart of the matter is very simple: to embed values as early as possible and sustain interest and enthusiasm for as long as possible.
We hope that we achieve that in a simple and straightforward way. By encouraging children to question and giving them the space (physical and mental) to explore their real world and the world of ideas, we hope to create environments where the children gain a fascination with what is around them. By guiding them, but leading them where necessary, we can be present to respond to their questions and help to shape their understanding of the world; making sense of what can be complicated and confusing.
We don’t tune out. We tune in to people and the wider world and the sooner children can experience this the better. That’s why we need our thinking brains and seeing eyes…But wouldn’t it be so much better if these were combined?