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SEP. 27, 2013

Perceiving, Listening, and Walking Quietly

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Some days, the Outdoor Academy might appear to be just like any other school. We go to class in the morning, probably Math, Spanish, or French, eat lunch at noon, go to English and Science in the afternoon, sometimes with art or music sprinkled in after. Granted, our schedule also includes a morning hike, chopping lumber, gardening, spoon making, and standing in a circle, singing and holding hands, but you get the idea.

Last Friday we had Perceiving Patterns Day, and it did not look like any day at any other school. Up in the hills of Dupont State Forest, we spent class time looking and listening and feeling the world around us.

In the Environmental Seminar, we made sound maps, visual representations of the sounds around us. In Outdoor Ed, we worked on perfecting our fox walk, a stalking strategy that uses animal-patterned movement to maintain silence and perceived stillness. These lessons really exemplify the reason we call it perceiving patterns day: We are not finding or discovering or creating patterns. In a sense, we are learning to be much more passive. Perceiving patterns requires us to be the quiet observers, a role I think many of us are not comfortable taking on. It’s easy to think of success as defined by our willingness to be actors and our ability to make the world fit our needs. But when we are reminded to observe, to perceive and feel and listen, the world shows us clues that will help us unravel it.

When I say that we had a lesson on stalking, it might sound like we are teaching your children how to be sneaky. And that’s the truth. We have taught them how to walk silently, how to use all their senses, how to stalk a fox in the woods, how to hear the sounds that float around them in the wind and down the tree trunks and through the pine needles beneath their feet. On Friday in the forest we learned how to go a little more unnoticed in the world so that we can notice a little more.

Beth Daviess
Resident Wilderness Educator