What makes education fun, exciting, and worthwhile?
Many times it stems from the intangibles - a sense of wonder, awe, and discovery. Learning something new, observing something you've never noticed before, seeing from a new perspective, using a new tool, learning and applying a new skill, engaging with people and what you are learning about in a new way. It's all about that feeling of firsts, never been done or experienced before and for me, education has a lot to do with sharing those firsts with others.
As educators, we get to facilitate learning experiences for people that help them delight in discovery. Many times, we join in that delight as co-learners. Our interest in and enthusiasm for learning can transfer to others and inspire others for years to come.
Two years ago, I was able to explore a new area of forest with a class of 5th graders. We traveled to their teachers land each month to learn about forest ecosystems. During the winter, we looked for tracks and signs of animals to see who might be about and around, active in the forest at this time of year. We were amazed by all the different kinds of tracks we found and were able to identify what seemed to be a travel corridor - a place where most of the animals passed through on their way from here to there. The teacher was especially excited to see that all these wild animals passed through her land. She ended up getting some wildlife cameras and setting them up along the travel corridor. She would send me pictures from the cameras and of tracks she found. In my opinion, the opossum handprint was the cutest of all.
Last week, I took some 1st and 2nd graders out to look for tracks in Moody Park. One of the things they learned was that dog prints have claws - wild dogs included (fox, coyote, wolf) and cat prints do have not claws - wild cats included (bobcat, lynx, mountain lion). Cats have the ability to retract their claws. The same teacher came with us and while we were exploring, searching for paws and claws, she told me that her daughter was recently hiking on Mt. Sunapee and came across a fresh track (the one pictured below). She took a picture and sent it to her husband, who told her to back out of there. Any ideas of what he thought she might encounter?