Friday, March 16, 2012

A Quiet Place

This video about Sigurd Olson's Listening Point, created by the Minnesota DNR, reminds me of some very important topics in environmental education that really apply to all of our lives.

The importance of time to reflect: 
For people around the world, it is becoming harder and harder to disconnect from modern conveniences, stop socializing and quietly reflect on any subject.  My experience as a classroom teacher drove this home regularly.  Though there are great variances in students and classes, the students I worked with could usually make it about five minutes.  I asked them about other times in their day during which they were quiet and reflective, and almost to a student they admitted that is was generally only when they slept.  That's a problem.  People of all ages need time to be silent and to think, without the intrusion of others, technology or information.  Sigurd Olson used to retreat to his cabin every day for quiet reflection, what would that do for our students, for ourselves, to be able to have silent time each day?

The importance of a place to reflect:
Those same students who rarely took time to reflect also made it clear they often did not have a place to reflect.  Brothers and sisters running around, televisions or radios making noise, and houses and apartments that were active until late in the night did not encourage thoughtful reflection.  This describes many of our lives, active and noisy from the moment we awake until the moment we shut our eyes. 

Most of us won't have a beautiful property sticking out into a remote lake to which we can escape, but can we carve out some physical place for quiet thought?.  Where do you go to reflect?  What is that spot that calms you physically and mentally enough to allow you to gather your thoughts?  If you are a teacher in a classroom, how do you create a place for students to do the same?

The importance of Wilderness and wild places:  Olson's Listening Point is literally on the edge of Wilderness.  Burntside Lake on which it sits is one of the entry points to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  It's beauty is hard to match and the solitude it provides even today is real.  Most of us are not so fortunate to have Wilderness at our doorstep, but that doesn't mean we can't experience its draw and share our passion for it with others.  Whether it's the squirrel in our backyard, a flower in a city garden or a rare glimpse of a wolf in the wild, our natural environment has much to teach us, and we have a great responsibility to learn.