Sunday, August 14, 2011


The following account is from the book, Stories in the Land, which you can download by going to the Resources page at the top of this post.  The teachers who took their students to the woods had arranged for older 9th graders to lead the first graders through this experience.  Here's their introduction:

When we took our students to Peddie Woods and to its 
surrounding lake,we saw awe in the 
eyes of the first graders.  Our students were showing them 
ducks, fiddleheads, lily pads, red maple trees, and crab-apple 
blossoms.They pointed out poison ivy and explained its dan- 
gers.They swung from Virginia creeper vines and made leaf 
rubbings of oak, maple, and birch trees.  With the use of home- 
made puzzle pieces, they learned about food webs and the 
interdependence of living organisms.We were amazed by all 
that our students taught their younger buddies.  Everyone was 
engaged and extremely excited about sharing the natural 
world.  We were rendered speechless.  As the day progressed,we 
watched our students embody the meaning of stewardship. 
They had instilled the wonder of the landscape they had come 
to know so well into the minds of these first graders.

Here is a response from one first-grader after this experience.

I have never been alone in the woods with my 
friends able to do whatever I want....You cannot 
know this feeling until you have seen the vast 
acres of pine. When I looked to the ground,I did 
not see trash, instead I sawpine needles and 
maple leaves covering the rich soil. Even though 
the leaves were dead, I could still see a spark of 
life in them, a spark that cannot be found in a 
city or a town, but only in a forest. It was the 
effects of the silence, the way you could see tree 
after tree, it seemed as if the scenery would never 
end. All I could smell was the pine and no pollu- 
tion. Now, I don’t just think of the outdoors as 
bugs and mud, I think of the beauty and the 
freedom of the landscape. 

(early morning hike in late March, Great Smoky Mountains)

If more and more teachers and parents took their children to the woods to see, smell, touch, and hear the life there, we could look to the future knowing that the places we--and they--love will be in good hands.


PS, here's one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver

Sleeping in the Forest 

I thought the earth remembered me,

she took me back so tenderly,

arranging her dark skirts, her pockets

full of lichens and seeds.

I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,

nothing between me and the white fire of the stars

but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths

among the branches of the perfect trees.

All night I heard the small kingdoms

breathing around me, the insects,

and the birds who do their work in the darkness.

All night I rose and fell, as if in water,

grappling with a luminous doom. By morning

I had vanished at least a dozen times

into something better.

from Sleeping In The Forest by Mary Oliver

© Mary Oliver


  1. What a fabulous idea, and yes, the true meaning of stewardship. Wish they would do that here...

  2. It's such a shame that more children don't get that opportunity.

  3. I have been meaning to publish on the Netwest blog or one of mine, essays by children taken to spend the day on an island created by the TVA. You reminded me and I will do it. I loved the responses by the children.