It Is Always Worth It

By Petra Eperjesi
Manager of Forest School Canada

This post was previously published on the Child & Nature Alliance. It is reposted here with permission.

I’ve got joy on my mind.

That’s maybe strange during a global pandemic, but I’ve been having so many conversations these days that are all pointing to joy. I asked a colleague who is a special educator who values taking her students outside what has most surprised her in the last year. She said joy! The joy of taking helping students out of their wheelchairs to be laid in a leaf pile, some of them 21 years old, laying in a leaf pile for the first time. Joy!

I spoke with a person who didn’t understand what I meant when I said that learning can be co-constructed with the land. He said, “that sounds a lot like free play and recess.” I said free play and recess is learning. The idea that they’re separate(able) is one I’ve rejected and dismantled many times but this time, when a colleague said, “it’s like it’s unfathomable that learning could be fun”,  it hit me: Maybe the struggle isn’t in understanding that play is learning. Maybe the issue is that we’ve so divorced learning from joy and so married it to work – industrialized, repetitive, efficient, one size fits all work –  that we’ve forgotten that learning can look and sound and feel joyful! Playful! Fun!

At this time of a global pandemic we are being pushed to reimagine what education will look like. We are being told to figure out new protocols, new routines, new strategies. If it has to be (gets to be?!) new, if it has to be (gets to be?!) reimagined, let us reimagine it outside! We know that outside is safest right now physically, and we’ve long known and felt that it’s good for us emotionally and psychologically.

That same special educator who shared her “leaf therapy” story with me also spoke to how much work it is to take children outside, especially those with exceptionalities and disabilities, and, she said, “it is always worth it.”

Let’s make the effort. Let’s meet this moment. Let’s reimagine education outside. Let’s make room for joy!


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