Monday, July 27, 2015

On Kids and Nature

Child and Wave
I recently saw Nature's Valley commercial about kids being out of touch now with nature, having a different childhood experience from their parents. That was sad to watch and listen to, but at the same time, I believe kids do what are being offered to them. If the adults around them only expose them to technology, then kids would be like those kids in the Nature Valley Commercial, describing 13 hours of their day into playing computer games or into social media/texting communication. Then, there are parents who bring their kids outside, let them explore, let them learn from their experience of their surroundings.
Father and Child Tidepooling, could you see the happiness expressed in the little girl's smile?
My childhood days was totally different from these days. Back then, it was so much easier for the kids to enjoy nature without the constant presence of our parents. Our playground was nature, our treasure hunt was finding wild vegetables to bring home such as amaranth, watercress, mushroom, and many more. When my nieces and nephew were growing, they already had a different childhood than us, there's technology, and then, there's nature. Did we choose one or the other? No, we combined both.

For my nieces' and nephew's childhood, they didn't have easy access anymore to nature, but their parents and us didn't stop them from not learning from their environment.
Parents Bringing Their Kids Outside to Play and Learn
One of the things I take delight when being outside is not only seeing but also hearing the priceless joy and curiosity of the kids. Yesterday, while I was tidepooling, there were two little boys and a little girl with their mom and dad who were so joyful whenever they see sea creatures. Then the little boys would explain to the parents how the crabs would hide from them when the crab sense their movement. The parents let them explore, let them touch, let them learn from not so far away. They were like the hummingbird parents to me, the term I actually just recently learned from
photo from

My experience with being out in nature is that kids enjoy and explore from it a lot. But would kids be able to find nature by themselves? No, for they no longer have that same luxury as I had when I was a child. But it does not mean they can't enjoy nature anymore. If the adults around them would bring them out and learn from their environment, kids would still have that opportunity to play in and learn from nature.  

Kids who are exposed to nature learn the natural cycles easily from experience, and they develop a sense of caring for the environment. Studies also show that kids who are exposed to nature become better in problem solving and analytical skills. 

I remember the time when my then 5 year old niece ( she is now a Medical student and graduated magna cum laude in University of the Philippines-Diliman ) asked me this question: "tita, does the glass have holes in it?"
Instead of sounding like an intelligent tita by feeding her information on the natural cycles of water, I instead grabbed that moment to train her to think about thinking and to learn about learning. 

Instead of answering her question directly, I responded to her question by another question, to see where she was coming from when she asked the question.

Me: What made you ask if the glass has holes in it?
5-yr old niece: Because there is water in the side of the glass, earlier there was none. Where did the water come from?
Me: So, you think the water comes from inside and seeped outside?
5-yr old niece: Where else it could come from?

My then 4-yr old nephew ( who recently graduated magna cum laude with an oblation medal in University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Engineering ) was listening to our conversation, and got excited with the question as well. He joined the conversation by asking:

4-yr old nephew: Yes, tita, where did the water come from? How come lolo's glass does not have water in the sides while all ours have?

Me: Wow, I like how you both observe, think, and ask! Do you know you are formulating hypothesis and already starting the scientific method? Instead of answering your questions, can we have some fun finding first if the glass have holes in them?
Niece and Nephew: Exciting, how?
Me: How do you think can you verify that question? 
Niece and nephew (after pondering and conferencing): We observe that only the cold glass collects water on the side, while the warm glass doesn't.
Me: how would you use that observation then to verify if the glass have holes in them?
They: We'll use two same glass containers,  first, let's test them by putting room temperature water to both, see if they both will have no water droplets outside after a while. Then,  we'll change the water of one to cold water and compare the changes.
Me: But how will you know if the water moved from inside to outside of the glass?
They ( after some time of pondering): If the water that forms on the outside surface of glass comes from inside, the water level inside should go down. So we will use marker to verify if after a while one of the water level goes down.
Me: GREAT, do you know you are actually creating your own experiment? So proud of both of you.

After a while, they saw the cold glass started to collect water on the sides, while the warmer glass did not have water on the sides at all. They also observed there was no change in the level of water. So they both said,

5-yr old niece and 4-yr old nephew: The glasses do not have holes in them! Water came from somewhere else! But where?

I won't bore you with the rest of the details of their mini scientific investigation. Anyway, at their young age of 5 and 4, they learned of the natural cycle or the phase changes of water through their first hand observation. We actually did more experiments after that for them to see these phase changes instead of just simply providing them the information. 

Kids love to experiment and love to learn by experience. Oftentimes, us adults would love to give the answer right away forgetting about the chance we robbed them to think and process their observation. Oftentimes, we stress about reading, but we forget to stress about thinking and processing. For me, there must be a balance of everything. Out in our natural world, kids explore their thinking and reasoning processes. 
Kids Having Fun
The same niece I was exploring with if the glass have holes in them also asked me this question when she was about the same age ( 5 years old or younger) when we were enjoying the ocean's waves. 

"Tita, there are some trash here in the sea, don't the people know that what they throw on land goes to the ocean? How can the government educate the people to take care of their environment, so that we don't only have a clean ocean to play but a clean ocean that support us to live?" Those questions the kids start asking because they see it for themselves, slowly help them to problem solve. Studies show that kids who have a connection with nature become better at problem solving and analytical skills, and also become more caring of their environment. 

For me, just because nature is less accessible to kids now does not mean they do not have to experience them. And just because most kids spend their time playing computer games does not mean technology has to be taken away from them. Their should be a balance of technology and nature for it will be to their benefit if they learn from both.
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  1. You were absolutely inspiring while guiding the children. They considered exactly what it was that they wished to know then devised a way to solve the question. Children's minds are so much more than we often credit them for.

  2. You are so right on this. Kids are more attached to gadgets now and they are less active. I try to expose my kids to nature whenever there is a chance.

  3. I appreciate your idea of letting your kids enjoy nature since nowadays, most kids would prefer computer rather than outdoor activities. Yes, I agree that adults must bring their kids to nature. We should be the one encouraging them to explore the wonders of the world.

  4. Nature is something i do my best NOT to deprive my children with. Just last Saturday, i dated G at the Botanical Gardens (K had catechism class so she couldn't tag along) after work. He had so much fun feeding fishes, turtles and swans.

    This awesome post also just reminded me i haven't blogged about our 2nd day at Turi Beach where we sort of went tidepooling too. We even spotted a sea cucumber!

    Your nieces and nephews are very lucky to have you as their aunt Beth. I bet they "mana" their intelligent brains from you. :)

  5. Fully agree with you that parents guide their children in what they can experience growing up. To be honest, my parents only bring us outside the city one a year when I was younger for our annual beach trip. I can't fault them since it's not their thing to do those things. Now that I have a son, and me being a gadget freak, I'm trying to balance technology and spending a lot of time outdoors with him. Lucky that my hubby is a mountain man and needs to be hiking or mountain biking all the time.

  6. Fully agree with your article, parents do have a major part of their children's life lifestyle, parents should introduce their children how amazing nature is and how to explore the world without depending on technology. nature and being simple is indeed a wonderful thing to cherish those memories.

  7. I wish I had a place like that to visit like the place in your pictures. It depends on the adults around them to help develop a kid's love of nature.

  8. Kids nowadays have a different childhood from ours. But at the same time instead of ignoring technology, we can use it to guide the kids too.

    Recently saw there is an apps that helps to identify type of plants. WOuld be useful if can use it while going for a hike. When a child ask us what plant is that and if we are not sure, we can always refer to the apps.

  9. You really are a great teacher AteB, I bet your nephew was thrilled that you only not answered his question but you showed how it really happened/formed.

  10. I agree much with your observation. Kung saanna-expose ng parents ang mga kids then yun ang kahihiligan nya. Exposing kids to Nature is something both fun and educational.

  11. Hallo teacher Betchai! :) it's me Maricar or aka KC short for KangCarrot ;) I just want to say hello and say i miss you and our wonderful sisters in TSS so much. There's so many things happened here within the past three years, and didn't have the time to blog anymore. I miss blogging so much, and I miss you all. hope to get in the world of blogging again. Keep up the good work ladies! God Bless you all and your kind hearts. hugs and kisses, Maricar or KC :)

  12. Hi Betchai! Rochelle here, hehehe. You have really mastered photography. Glad to know that you still have this blog after several years! I have ditched my old blogs and started a new one just last April ( See you around...again! :)

  13. I would love to have you around my grands. That was a fascinating way to make them think and discover.

  14. Hmmmm you really have intelligent lineage :) Nature is indeed the best play mate. I miss my childhood suddenly :) chasing waves, watching wings, clouds and playing under the rain!