7Returning to the Child’s Garden
beetle in an insect container. We counted its legs. We then prac-
ticed writing six in the air. We decided to let it go and went out-
side. Once outdoors, we took ten giant steps to the big tree. We
counted the nineteen seconds it took the beetle to fly out of the
jar. Then we found eight more bugs on the playground (seven
of which were insects and one a spider). Once back indoors, I
was able to use all the number jargon from our “Hey, look at the
bug!” adventure as my starting point. I did my number lesson, but
I used the children’s excitement and interests to direct the lesson.
All this occurred because children love life—they love its fullness.
Time and again, my students teach me to enjoy the moment in
front of me. And nature has an effortless way of teaching us how to
celebrate life: just watch a bug do its natural agenda for more than
two minutes, or follow the course of a bud to blossom, and you will
see this celebration at its optimum.
Growing Up Low-Tech
Life seems so different for children now. When I grew up in the
’70s and ’80s, nature was our dwelling from after school until
nearly sundown. We made forts in it and hid among evergreens.
Underneath the trees, we wrote messages in the dirt and made
paths in the dried pine needles. We occupied ourselves by setting
up our outside kids-only abode. We played King of the Hill, and
our jeans were grass stained and our fingernails were dirty. We
used stones for drawing and played hopscotch on sidewalks. We
used sticks for bats and pebbles for balls (okay, so that wasn’t such
a good idea). Mostly we simply enjoyed the outdoors, our organic
In our family, television was a special luxury. After adjusting
our outdoor antenna to bring in one of three stations, the whole
family watched a snowy picture of Wild Kingdom or Little House on
the Prairie. Today television, handheld electronics, and computers
are a way of life, and they consume children’s time and energy.
Interestingly enough, we have a record number of obese children
and children on medications for short attention spans. I believe
children’s lack of time outdoors and their loads of time in front
of television sets, computer games, and other electronic devices
contribute to the problems they face.
According to Norman Herr, PhD, professor of science education
at California State University, Northridge, 99 percent of American
households have at least one television, and the average number
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