Meeting the Wild Children of PEI

A second Sierra Club Wild Child Nature Immersion Program is underway in PEI, only this time: it’s winter fun! It is truly an amazing experience to slow down and let our imaginations wonder. At one visit, the kids and I made up a game called “Chipmunks” all on our own while we were discussing animals that need trees to live. The game was a relay design where children had to run to a tree, grab a nut or pinecone (we used whatever we had on hand), then run back to their “hole” to store the nut for the winter and tag the next person in line. The first team to go to the tree and back twice “won” the round. As the weeks unravel, I become more amazed at the creative minds of the children I meet. My visits are a valuable reminder of why play and imagination are key to healthy, engaged living. Another very popular activity with the wee ones is the yoga “tree pose”. This is another activity that transpired very naturally during my first visit to an after school program. In this activity the children stand in a wide circle doing tree pose. The goal is to stand strong and firm like a tree without falling, if you fall you stay down and we see who can stay in tree pose the longest. The children are to picture a tree standing perfectly still and try to embody that quality in their own posture. While this can be written off as “just an activity” it has profound ability to connect the child to the part of themselves that is literally like a tree: the quiet, strong, steady self that they can tap into. This plays a role in allowing the child to see how it is very much a part of nature. To further that feeling, I have the children compare themselves to a tree and recognize all of the ways in which they are the similar to a tree: they need water, sun, fresh air to live. They are also all slightly different in height, stature, colour, smell, etc. (just like trees!). There was one visit this week that was the perfect example of slowing down. The children, myself, and the childcare worker were all sitting in the snow in the woods trying to be quiet enough to hear some wildlife. All of a sudden, we reached that perfect silence. The type of silence that goes so deep that your whole being just relaxes into the quietness that surrounds you… the moment lingered until we heard a chickadee in the distance. There were whispers of excitement and a few screeches of celebration. The silence paid off!  What an exciting, connecting moment it was. I see the Wild Child program and the support it has been receiving from the Island community (and abroad) as a great step toward the reintegration of the natural world into our value system as a society and this warms my heart. Projects like Wild Child are what keep people inspired, creative, and motivated to persevere in times of challenge and struggle- be it on a personal, communal, or global level. We need to keep supporting these amazing initiatives as they remind us to recognize what we have and cherish it so that it can continue to be. What if we all awoke our inner Wild Child? We’re hearing it more and more: in general, people in our culture are disconnected from nature. As a culture we may focus on how the children today are in need of nature more than ever, but the reality is, adults, you need to reconnect with the natural world just as much. In doing so, you model one of the most important messages possible for a child: nature is absolutely amazing.In this fast paced society we seldom slow down and notice ourselves are breathing in precious, life sustaining air. We forget that we do not exist in a vacuum sustained by nothing more than our cell phones, laptops, tablets, televisions, cars, video games. Our conveniently laid out homes, the various tasks we “have to do”, and even that tireless self-dialogue that goes on in our heads from sun-up to sun-down bombard our health, our happiness, and our general well being as a culture. On a collective level, we have forgotten the very foundation of what keeps our species alive, thriving, and continuing to flourish throughout time. We have forgotten the very fabric from which our beings are derived: the natural world. In his book Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louve defines this situation as “nature deficit disorder.” And it is no joke. This modern dilemma can be such an unsettling realization, but there is a way to rekindle a deep and caring relationship to the natural world – and it begins by simply re-connecting with it. Education writer David Sobel speaks of the importance of getting back into nature not only for our health, but also for the health of the environment. He advocates for allowing people to find their joy and love for nature before introducing them to all that is going wrong in the environment. Sobel says it is imperative that we first go into nature and feel its beauty before we can ever imagine trying to protect or respect it.  This is the very same perspective of the Wild Child program and its coordinators! Wild Child does not aim to inform children of the destruction or degradation of the natural world. Instead, Wild Child is intently focused on getting children into nature. This program focuses on recognizing the beauty and diversity inherent in the world around us, and embracing it for all that it is. It allows the children (and their caretakers) to really hone in on the present and let themselves experience nature. For all these reasons, I look forward to an exciting exploration of the winter season with these energy bound little ones and their various educators/caretakers.Hanna HamelinePEI Wild Child | 902-326-3914