Radio Perspective – Would he be able to hear what the earth is telling him?
My co-educator told me that less than 1% of all people in the U.S., with urban youth just a sliver of that, have had an outdoor educational experience, like the ones the organization we worked for provided. Studies show that with numerous experiences interacting with nature nurtures a love for it and thus, develops feelings of stewardship.
The students that came to our program in the Marin Headlands of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, an urban park just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, were always wide-eyed and bounding off the buses that dropped them off from urban and rural schools, from within and out of the state. They had been hearing in their classrooms and from their peers about coming to this “nature science school” all year.
I took a particular group of inner city students on a sunset hike to a view overlooking the Pacific Coast. I revealed that we were going to my “listening spot”, a place where I would go to listen to nature, but only under the condition that they wouldn’t talk. As we got to the top, I smiled to see silent mouths dropping in awe of the ocean and the open sky. I had them scan from left to right, taking a minute to try to notice as much as they could, the hill peaks, the flowers, the way the water flowed, so they wouldn’t forget what they saw. I had them close their eyes and list all that they heard. They stuck their tongues out to taste the salt in the air, and put their hands out to feel the wind. The whole time I wondered if any of them would get bored or distracted, but nothing ever indicated so.
Later, one boy came up to me. “Jo,” he said, “I wish I had a listening spot at home.” I repeated what I told the other students that he does, that he could go to a park or even a yard. “My parents don’t let me go outside,” he replied. “They say it’s dangerous.” His sudden change in demeanor brought a lump to my throat. We tried strategizing about ways how he could access one, both of us eventually concluding that he could experience nature by listening to the sounds of rain drops on the roof of his bedroom. He looked relieved and ran off to join his classmates, but I couldn’t help but wonder about when his next encounter with the outdoors would be and would it move him like this one did? That in the midst of his urban home, would he be able to hear what the earth is telling him?
With a Perspective, I’m Joanne Wong.