From STEM and STEAM, to iPads in preschools, to a phone in just about everyone’s hand at all times, finding a happy balance between life and technology can seem daunting at best. Then, throw in integrating nature into everyday life while pulling kids away from the XBox, and the task can seem nearly impossible.
But that is just it, it’s not about sacrificing one for the other, that would be futile and tech would win. We only have to discover the sweet spot of how tech and nature complement each other. I’ve heard Richard Louv speak on how he learned from ship captains that the most successful new young captains are the ones who have a strong childhood balance of both tech and nature experiences.
Technology is an important (& dare I say inherent? Yikes!) part of our modern world and culture, so it is our job as adults to show children how to manage technology within the context of a healthy relationship with their natural world – and how the two worlds aren’t at odds, but have the ability to enhance each experience.
To do just that, I am happy to welcome Amy Parmelee back to the blog! Amy has come up with some great ideas for integrating nature, technology, and creativity into her home life and her son is quite happy with the results.
Technology and Nature.
The two don’t seem to fit together. Don’t people “get out into nature” to unplug and enjoy being in, well, nature?
Earlier this summer, I asked our Nature Guide Kelly about the use of technology while enjoying nature. Her response, based on what she’s learned at conferences and through reading, is that the merger of technology and nature is the future. Now, this doesn’t mean we are all going to be sitting in the woods texting, or at least I hope it doesn’t.
Shortly after this, I read Scott Sampson’s new book “How to Raise a Wild Child.” He devotes part of his book to a discussion on how we can “embrace both nature and technology.” He notes that technology includes the binoculars that let birders get closer to their subjects. So does that make binoculars bad? No, of course not.
In the book, Sampson guides nature mentors in ways that we can use today’s technology to augment our encounters with nature and to help us draw otherwise uninterested children, particularly teens, back to nature. The hard part may be finding that balance between the high-tech gear and just living in the (natural) moment.
My 7-year-old son has been showing a growing interest in technology, and while I don’t keep him away from it, I don’t really encourage it, either. We found a happy medium, though, that I think falls into what Sampson means by finding a balance between technology and nature.
Shortly after school released for the summer, we joined some friends for a trip to our local arboretum. Despite the boys running through the trails, we were lucky enough to have several sightings of gopher tortoises. (Well, it could have been the same tortoise that we saw several times.) The kids were able to get close-up views of the tortoises, while we moms cautioned about keeping a respectful distance from this animal, which is listed as threatened in Florida. We took photos and video of our cool encounters.
Later, a discussion about our visit led to a research project, which my son loves to do at his Montessori school. I screened some websites on gopher tortoises for my son and then let him read through them. He wrote notes about what he learned, and he drew a picture of a tortoise. Then, came the part he liked best: He pulled it all together to create a PowerPoint presentation.
He asked me to type in the information he had gathered, so I typed what he dictated from his notes. We talked a bit about how to better organize his information by topic, which led to some cutting and pasting. I showed him how to access the photos I had downloaded to the computer, and he took over adding his drawing and the photographs to the presentation. Of course, then he had fun adding noises to the slide transitions.
Once his presentation was finished, he was able to show it off to his dad, and we even emailed it to his grandparents. He was proud of his work, he had fun creating it, he (unknowingly) worked on his communication skills, and it all came about because of a desire to learn more about the gopher tortoises we saw in nature.
This activity can be modified in so many ways and for different learning environments. Parents or teachers can incorporate a trip to the library for research books, and tailor the project to work on different skills the child needs to hone, such as handwriting or typing skills, organization, or more formal essay writing skills. Of course, other presentation software – even video or blogs – can be used in the project.
The activity also can be worked in reverse. The research can be done before a field trip or a vacation. Just make sure to do a little homework first so the child picks a topic that will be relatively easy to find on the trip, so no one gets bummed out. Imagine how excited your child will be to see the chosen animal or plant in person and how proud he or she will be to tell everyone everything about the subject.
Technology and nature. Maybe they can fit together.
How do you incorporate technology and nature experience?
For me it’s mainly photography, and then of course this blog!
Share the ways you could do, or have done, a project like Amy’s that balances tech and nature experience with your children or students!
Use tech to share your nature experiences with us all on Instagram #wingswormsandwonder
Seeds to Sprout:
Learn more about how to become a nature mentor with Scott Sampson’s book “How to Raise a Wild Child.”
If you are curious or concerned about the merger of technology and nature, read what Richard Louv says about the idea of the “hybrid mind.” The article includes lots of links.
For some basic information on gopher tortoises, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Want to take a different technology route? Try apps, such as Project Noah or iNaturalist , or find a citizen science project that fits your location and interests.