Deep Nature Play: A Worldwide Movement of Joyful Nature Experiences (United States)
The seven #NatureForAll strategies offer solutions to a worldwide problem of disconnection from nature. They have been developed based on recommendations received from the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress and the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress, and advice from #NatureForAll partners worldwide. They will continue to evolve over time. Not every strategy may be applicable in every situation, so our partners choose the one(s) that work best in their local context
The aliveness and joy that we feel outdoors reminds us of nature’s importance, and our own higher priorities. Nature is for everyone, but the hectic pace of daily life prevents us from fully appreciating her beauty.
Our teaching methods have been designed to offer a playful alternative to the restless distractions that are so common today. By using creative activities that focus attention, participants experience nature with a vibrant sense of wholeness and “actually feel what it’s like to be a part of the natural world.”
When absorbed in deep play, our sensory awareness is heightened and we feel intensely alert and alive. We operate at the peak of our mental and physical capacity. Athletes refer to this state as being in the “zone,” psychologists and educators refer to it as “flow,” and children call it “play.” These type of experiences stay with us throughout our lives.
Our teaching system, Flow Learning™ gently guides people into this heightened state of awareness by using soft elements such as surprise; novelty of new experience; sensory challenge; immersive encounter; meditation; storytelling; playful group interaction; and joy. The result? Students gain a deeper understanding and rapport with nature. As one of our participants in China recently said, “I feel like I’m discovering a new continent.”
What Strategies Contributed to your Success?
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service selected Sharing Nature with Children as one of the fifteen most influential books published since 1890 for connecting children and families to nature. When Sharing Nature with Children was first published in 1979, it was one of the first books of its kind to offer much more than just a field guide or textbook explanations of nature. Parents and educators now had an easy to use guide that worked along the grain of their child’s natural openness, curiosity, and wonder.
Playful games capture people’s attention and make learning multidimensional and fun. No longer are participants passively observing the environment with just their intellect; with play, their whole being becomes involved. Because participants are utilizing all of their faculties of perception and knowing, both children and adults come alive, and nature comes alive for them. We’ve heard many stories from people whose childhood Sharing Nature experiences inspired their life-long love for nature. When nature sessions are infused with a sense of joy, wonder, and aliveness, people will come back again and again.
Part of our mission has always been to “transform society by training leaders and multipliers” around the world. In Japan alone, there are nearly 40,000 trained leaders, and our coordinator in Taiwan estimates 100,000 people have experienced the Sharing Nature activities. This past fall we traveled throughout Romania training influential educators and in May we will be training leaders in Slovenia in partnership with the Slovenian Forestry Institute and Zelena Steza.
Sharing Nature “sparked a worldwide revolution in nature education” and has reached millions of children and adults through the sixty-seven foreign editions of our books published in twenty-five languages.
These comments express a common sentiment we often hear from people around the world of the impact Sharing Nature has had on their lives:
“The world is so beautiful. Never before had I beheld it in such radiance and benevolence. Every sound became precious to me, and uplifted me long after my original experience. For the very first time, I felt that my life was a precious gift.” —Sumi, Japan
“I was trained in my profession to see trees as a commercial commodity. But now, after experiencing the Sharing Nature activities, I realize that every living thing in the woodland is my friend. This awareness is going to fundamentally change the way I work with the forest.” —Johann, Germany
- Let Nature be the teacher. Keep the focus and experience on nature herself.
- Because the emotions we have during an experience are often retained long after the experience is over, we suggest keeping “a sense of joy” throughout your nature session. Judge the success of your nature outing by the deep interest and joy radiating from your student’s faces.
- It’s easy to become discouraged seeing the negativity happening to the world around us, but our example is contagious. Keeping our energy positive and inspired is essential when sharing nature with others.