Seeing and Naming

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“Painting these close-ups was a way of learning to look, a way of removing the blinders with which we gallop through the world, slowing down, shedding our notions and concepts of things, and taking things in as they really are.”

This summer when my Grandson was born I started a nature journal for him. Well, really for me to learn how to create a nature journal. I wanted to play with this idea so when he is older we can build one together. I know that so many young children have lost touch with the world outside their front door. Children and often times their parents no long have the names for the trees, bushes, bugs, birds or flowers they walk by on the few times they choose to stroll around their neighborhoods.

IMG_7837.jpgI have to admit that I also have lost the names of some critters and plants. I know basic birds, trees, bugs and I am pretty good with flowers since I garden but I know that my mother could have name so many more. It was a part of her education when young. It was part of my older sisters and brothers as well but as I came along botany was slowly dropped from the curriculum. I was not asked to make a leaf collection or a bug or butterfly collection. (maybe it was good since it meant a great deal of killing off bugs and butterflies to put IMG_7840.jpgpins in them and arrange in a box with their names)

When I was teaching I tried to keep this in my science curriculum but it often fell to the way side. (and honestly many of my fellow teachers find it hard to get any science taught in the elementary grades, let alone science not required by the district, state or nationally)

The thing is we did not find a substitute for the bug and leaf collecting. So we stopped looking for and at them. We stopped naming them. The Maples, Oaks, Elms IMG_7990.jpgall just became trees. The insects also seems to have lost their names. They have just become bugs and most times people assume bugs means pest. Pest means we kill it.

We are losing our connection to the natural world generation by generation. We are forgetting what is out in the world around us. We have lost the understanding of the connections and web of life that we live in.

It has been wonderful to watch the young people begin to gather around the climate change issue. Their voices reaching out for the need to change. They are calling for big and global changes, which need to happen and happen quickly.

But – I also know that this generation and the young ones to come need to have guides who are helping them make deep and meaningful connection to the earth. They see the need to save mountains, rivers, air, and water but do they also see the need for the little bugs, the birds, the microbes in the soil. There are so many layers to the world we live in.

IMG_8044.jpgMaking this deep connection means seeing. It means really looking closely at the leaves, the flowers. What insects are in your yard or park? Can you name the butterflies that go by your window? Are you able to name the bird that landed on the deck or porch out your back door?  Can your kids or grandkids name them?

This is where I am – learning to see and name the critters and plants close to home and in my state. I am working on drawing some of them and writing about them in a simple journal for my grandson. When he is old enough we will wander together – looking, digging, naming and writing about and drawing what we see.

I hope to help one more child make a connection to the earth and know why we must work to save this lovely planet we live on.

(Personally, I am afraid to many of the people in charge of our world are not seeing and cannot name what they do see of the natural world. They have lost this connection to the earth as well. They live within big cities, cars, planes seldom taking time to feel the earth beneath their feet, the wind and sun in their face and the woods surrounding them with grace. We need to help change that as well.)

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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6 Responses to Seeing and Naming

  1. I’m so glad I read your post. Your message is close to my heart. At every opportunity I also try to engage young children to observe nature’s wonders. Keep it up!

  2. arjeha says:

    You make a very important point. It is sad today to think that so many people feel that if they can’t put a name to something it is not important and therefore disposable. We all need to reconnect with nature.

  3. Ramona says:

    I love that you’re doing the nature journal for your grandson and for you too! I love being outdoors, but I must confess that I don’t have the names for many of the things I love. I need to remedy that because I have three grandsons who need a grandma who knows the natural world.

  4. Terje says:

    You wrote this with deep care for nature. Birds, plants and bugs – life is richer when one recognizes the different kinds.

  5. Love that you started a nature journal for your grandson (er, for you). Wait till you can work on it together!

  6. litcoachconnection says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful post! You are so right that we are becoming detached from nature especially as our leaders take steps to hurt the earth and we remove such critical content area knowledge from our curriculum. You have made me think about what I can name and make sure that I educate myself and my children.

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