Fostering Kind Relationships With Nature
Jenna McArthur

This past year, while completing my Masters, I came across a quote by David Sobel (1996) that states, “What’s important is that children have an opportunity to bond with the natural world, to learn to love it, before being asked to heal its wounds. This quote as well as the reading of Braiding Sweetgrass transformed my stance on the importance of place-based learning and the need to support children in developing a relationship with the natural world. As a teacher, I wanted to give students the opportunity to open their hearts to the abundance of gifts that Mother Earth offers if we take the time to be present, slow down, and truly experience nature. One of the first activities that we completed as a class was the co-constructing of a nature agreement that would help set the tone of our interactions with nature. Together, we made the “earth” with our handprints which signified our agreement for how we would act when on our outside adventures.

Another key initiative was teaching students that our relationship with nature is one of reciprocity. This is a big concept to grasp in Kindergarten, and one that I connected to the picture book Have you Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids. My Action Inquiry project focused on being “bucket fillers” in nature where we looked at how we could live together with nature, all get along, be friends, and be bucket fillers together on our own school campus. To “fill” the buckets of nature, we befriended and took care of rocks and trees, in which Kindergarten students learned the importance of asking for permission before borrowing from nature and the need to return items so others can enjoy her beauty. Students made birdhouses, went birdwatching, and made bug hotels. We also created a Kinder-Garden where students were able to see firsthand that their actions can make a difference as well as the power of reciprocity. By showing kindness and tending to the garden, it gifted us with lettuce, radishes, and other flowers.

Over the course of the year, I watched the Kindergarten students' caring and empathetic actions towards nature strengthen and observed their relationship with special places on campus blossom. I hope that I have supported students in spreading future seeds of kindness and care towards nature and the overarching understanding that nature is a gift that needs to be treasured. I look forward to this year and the many nature-filled adventures that await!

Contributed by Ms. McArthur, Kindergarten Teacher
Originally published in Spirit Magazine - Fall 2021