Cultivating Wonder

Recently, we had a brief few days of sun amidst what has been a record-breaking year for rainfall in the Pacific Northwest. While residents here tend to be intrepid when it comes to exploring nature in the rain and mud, I’m somewhat less so, and the sun provided a great reason to get outside.

We are lucky enough to live close to an environmental education center, located on 100 acres of land set aside right on the edge of the city. To be sure, it is a beautiful place – a lake for raising salmon until they are released, another for ducks and wildlife, and trails leading to outdoor classrooms. But… it is also common, a little pedestrian, even, if you’re like me and like to find more of a thrill in your experiences with nature – a waterfall, maybe, or a breathtaking vista, maybe a wild animal (from a safe distance). Here, invasive ivy climbs over everything, the roar of the highway is a constant undercurrent to the birdsong, and some days the only animals to be seen are crows and squirrels.

But my three-year old isn’t so picky. “Are we going to visit Hank the Heron?” she asks me, referencing the site’s year-round resident heron and making sure I’m not confusing it with Disney’s Hank the Octopus. (I’m not.) And from there the questions keep coming.

“Is that a spider? Will it bite me?”

“Why are there flags on those trees?” [Trees being newly planted native plants on a field recently cleared of invasive blackberry brambles.]

“Where did the sun go?”

I explain as best as I can, at what I’m hoping is a three-year old level, knowing that her questions will get more and more sophisticated as she grows, maybe even to the point where I will have to say, “I don’t know, let’s find out together.” And just like that, she’s a kid with a beautiful wonder of the natural world, and I’m the grown-up in her life who is cultivating that in her. What a simple and amazing gift it is!

Are you looking for ideas about cultivating wonder with the young people in your life? Check out A Rocha USA’s Wild Wonder Creation Care Camp curriculum, as well as the recent posts on this blog to see it in action!

Anna Wilde helps coordinate the A Rocha USA blog. She lives with her family in Vancouver, Washington.

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