Children have excellent eyes. At the arboretum, we see proof of this.
WITS collaborates with the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center to teach nature writing to our students. The field trip is an exciting part of that process. I’m on of the writers assigned to lead writing there. Each small group of students is assigned a naturalist and a writer.
The nature guides always ask the children (and us, the writers) to point out any animals they see. To this day, I haven’t spotted anything that wasn’t already pointed out to me. The children, on the other hand, have picked out katydids, spiders, squirrels, turtles, frogs and snakes. They’ve seen mud dauber nests in the grass and spider sacs on the branches. They’ve done this while laughing, joking, running, and jumping between tree branches, while I’ve walked slowly and kept my eyes trained on the ground.
It could be that the children see more because they’re closer to the ground or have some physical advantage that worsens with age. Personally, I doubt it. I think, as adults, we’ve become jaded; it’s hard to us to see the world with fresh eyes. Children aren’t as likely to dismiss that odd color or strange twig as mere noise. Individually, they may be wrong, but collectively, their observations win out.
Places like the Arboretum remind us that youth has it own advantages, which we, as teachers, would be wise to remember.
by Julian Martinez, Writers in the Schools