By W. George Scarlett | Bugs sucking the blood of other bugs, hawks grabbing and tearing apart squirrels, coyotes howling after a kill – if ever someone gets sentimental about nature and speaks only of nature’s wonders, that person has missed something central about nature, namely, that nature works on a different ethic than that of most humans.
By W. George Scarlett | To know nature can be through touching, smelling, seeing – in short, through sensing.
By Zhou Jiang and Ting Zhang | By Children in urban kindergartens lack opportunities to get close to nature. But with help from teachers, getting close to nature can still happen – as the following story illustrates. The story is about a kindergarten in the West Lake District, Hangzhou City, where poop in the sandpit inspired a class of 4–5-year-old children to explore their relationship with a cat.
Review by Leah Harrigan | There’s something extraordinary that happens when a child steps out into the natural world, the possibility of exploration ahead of her. With each overturned leaf and puzzling new sight, there’s a momentum that propels curiosity forward. The Hike by Alison Farrell is an outdoor adventure story that follows three curious, brave young female explorers who set out for a hike that takes them wherever the trail leads.
By Amy and Dan Warren | Our son, Lio, hops in the car at the end of a cold and damp school day. Rosy-cheeked and smeared with earth and ash from fort-building and fire-making, he reaches down to take off his boots and empty them of leaves, water, and mud. His pockets carry the day’s found treasures: Quartz rocks, cool sticks that double as swords, acorns with their cupule caps carefully removed. He tells us about playing in the stream, falling in, and then warming up by the fire. The cold and wet, and the restorative warmth of fire, are intimate experiences for Lio, part of his personal history. Consequences—the interplay of these experiences—are naturally rooted in the context, and so they are predictable and seemingly just. So too is his personal efficacy, as he navigates the context: The warmth of the fire he helped to make, and his regained comfort, signal his effectiveness. He is but a part of a whole system called Nature.
By John Hornstein | My mother was happiest when foraging for mushrooms. Being an immigrant from Germany, she had difficulty adjusting to life in rural Maine. Foraging became a way for her to stay connected to her childhood. It also connected her to something more primal, the natural world. As a child tagging along on her foraging adventures, I sensed the importance of those connections, and it made me happy. She has been gone a number of years, and now I am the one foraging for mushrooms, moreso as I age – a way of remaining connected to her, but also a way to connect to nature – so much so that my fascination with mushrooms has become an entanglement – one raising basic questions about who we are as humans and what we need to do for children’s development, questions such as, “What is it about fungi that fascinates and inspires?” and “How can mushrooms help us teach children how nature works?” and “What can fungi tell us about the precarious world we now live in?”
Review by Leah Harrigan | Deep inside the damp, dark forest, something hides behind the pine needles and twigs. But upon closer look, there’s more than just a hidden treasure to be found. There’s a whole kingdom to explore. We Are Fungi is a compelling introduction to the many functions of fungi that keep our planet healthy. But mostly, it is a way to cultivate wonder, a wonder that can lead children to want to know more. Guiding the reader with a welcoming sense of mystery, it depicts fungi as a presence lurking in the background yet grasping for our attention to explain all the incredible things they can do.
By Allison Choi, illustrations by Kirsten Malsam | Anthropomorphizing to explain nature need not, indeed should not, be limited to explaining nonhuman animals. Even the elusive chemistry in evaporative cooling can become intuitively understood by children, if only we bring that chemistry alive — as Allison Choi and Kirsten Malstem’s story clearly illustrates.
By W. George Scarlett | In E.B. White’s classic children’s book, Charlotte’s Webb, Charlotte, the spider, becomes the kind and smart friend of Wilbur, the pig. Charlotte saves Wilbur from the usual destiny of farm pigs by weaving into her web words praising Wilbur and making him famous among the surrounding humans. But if that were all there was to the story, though it would appeal to many and maybe even cultivate in children empathy for spiders and pigs, it would stop short of teaching about how nature works and stop short of motivating children to show care for nature.
Review by Joy Chi | The following article is a collection of reviews of smartphones apps that serve to help children and adults alike to connect with nature.