“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”
It was also Albert Einstein who said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” For part of our unit on Native Americans, we spend time each week in our ‘secret’ spot in the woods where we imagine, play, have quests and different identities. In the book “Indian Boyhood,” by Charles A. Eastman, which I recently read, I learned that American Indian boys would go off into the woods and imitate the older men in wrestling matches or contests of skill. They would even imitate religious or sacred ceremonies even though it was strictly forbidden. Just today I was observing the boys at recess, before we left for our adventure, with dreams in their eyes, they were concocting a scheme to have a ‘real’ sword fight after the kindergarten went home.
We have also been reading folk stories from many different tribes, namely the Maidu, Lakota, Sioux, and Cherokee. Getting to know something before you box it all up in identifications – helps to make that knowledge become part of you. It whets your appetite for more and inspires you. It makes the learning feel alive and not a lifeless history tucked away on a dusty shelf. Today the boys earned their first feather and paint by completing a task. After a silent walk through this beautiful space in the forest, (some went barefoot), I gave each boy a picture of an animal. By himself, without help, silently, they were to spread out in different directions and build a home for their animal. This boy’s picture was of a minnow. He decided it was impossible to build the minnow a home so, since we were “pretending” that we had become brothers to all wildlife, he was able to ask the fish what he should do…
After they finished and shared, I gave them about 15 minutes to play. They decided that since they had built homes for the animals, it would probably be ok for them to build their own “homes.” Some boys went off to build one in the trees and others began a lean-to on the ground. You can see by their joy in this video (turn your volume up and be patient) that the boys experienced a sense of wonder, joy, and expansion in nature.
Maybe next week we will visit a Maidu Village being built on a land trust not far from school. This may give them some more ideas on how to construct their forts. One of the beautiful songs that we sing and it a favorite of Living Wisdom Schools is one that has been adapted from a Navajo prayer:
With Beauty before me may I walk,
With Beauty behind me may I walk,
With Beauty all around me may I walk this Earth,
Wandering on a trail of Beauty
Lightly I walk.
Lightly I walk.