nature observation: the spring visit


With my grade 7 (MYP 2) class, I have been doing a nature writing unit throughout the year. In each season we have taken a bus to a stretch of forest on the shoreline of a nearby island and spent some time doing observations. Then they use those observations to do a writing piece describing what it looked like and felt like in the forest. I posted some background on the unit when we did our winter visit in January.

This time was a little different. I've been trying to get us there since April, when I came off my paternity leave, but with my illness, sports trips, visiting astronauts and some terrible weather, we could not get out. Today was our last class meeting of the year, our very last chance to go and get closure on our nature experience even if there was no time to actually write the assignment. And of course, half an hour before we left, it started raining.

But we went anyway. We got a little wet on the way, but the rain dried up although it was still cold and overcast. When we arrived at the south coast, the wind whipped the sea around creating whitecaps and whistled through the forest. Right away they commented on the contrast with the silence of the winter visit and the solemnity of the autumn visit. They took ten minutes of alone time, and they were instructed to collect words to describe their impressions. 

Rather than have them do a written assignment, on the beach I put them in three groups of 5-6 students and told them to use the words they had written to construct a performance. They were fantastic. Two of the groups did something similar: acted out different elements of nature, calling out to each other in turn. They focused on the range of words and ideas they had developed, and they were great. 

The third group had a chant: it started with, 'There is wildness in the sea,' and after a few rounds of that, they added, 'There is wildness in the trees.' After a few more rounds, they added the final line, so that all of them started moving rhythmically in a circle chanting,
There is wildness in the sea,
There is wildness in the trees,
There is wildness in ME.
The students in the other groups loved it, and joined the circle, and indeed so did I, so by the end, we were all dancing around in a circle, singing this chant, getting louder and faster and, well, wilder. One of the major themes of the nature writing is using nature as a reflection of ourselves and using it to understand our own natures, and this piece captured that perfectly. It was the best end of the school year I've ever had with a class.

I was tempted to debrief that experience as we waited for the bus on the trip back, but in the end, some experiences are better left raw and organic.

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