Education in Nature
photo by James Sarmiento
Not only children but adults are suffering from a condition, now beginning to become widely acknowledged, of nature-deficiency. This is proving to have severe consequences for both individuals and society. Disconnectedness from nature, both mentally and emotionally, has become so extreme that the most catastrophic life-destroying decisions are being made every day by people in authority, seriously affecting not only the life of nature but the lives of all those who live close to nature as well as all whose survival is ultimately dependent upon it (which includes all who inhabit this planet).
While there is the obvious necessity of re-connecting with nature on all levels and there are known benefits for the health of individuals in doing so, nature also provides an ideal educational environment, as many have testified down through the ages – as we quote here, particularly in relation to trees and woodlands:
Way back in the twelfth century, the great Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, acknowledged by historians as the most powerful and influential figure of his age, made an interesting confession: “What I know of the divine sciences and Holy Scripture, I learned in wood and field. I have no other masters than the beeches and oaks.”
In the same century, the mystic Bernard of Morlaix, proclaimed: “Trees will teach you more than you can learn from the mouth of a doctor of theology.”
Poets have said the same:
“One impulse from a vernal wood,
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good
Than all the sages can.”
— William Wordsworth
“I have been a tree amid the wood
And many a new thing understood
That was rank folly to my head before.”
— Ezra Pound
Scientists too have stated their opinions:
“You need no teacher.
The universe is your teacher,
The forests are your teachers.”
— Brian Swimme*
And every tree in them!
“If you are open to being taught by nature,
Go listen to the trees.”
— Kenneth Meadows
photo by Paraflyer
Education in a Woodland
Trees, in a woodland or forest setting, provide an educational environment offering a directness of experience of a rich and awe-inspiring nature, which is highly beneficial in arousing wonder and curiosity and in the awakening and development of human faculties, that is not a possibility in any school room. Such an environment is wholly necessary in the context of a holistic (whole-system) approach to education that is not exclusively nor even predominantly academic but largely hands-on and experiential.
In the presence of Nature, we can receive a well-grounded education, while acquiring not only an ecological but also spiritual awareness, as we awaken not only to the mystery and multi-dimensionality of what is around us but also to the larger dimensions of our selves.
University of the Living Tree
One of the primary aims of The Living Tree Educational Foundation is to bring into being a university wholly devoted to trees, University of the Living Tree; and to provide educational programmes and opportunities for experiencing, along with the acquisition of knowledge and skills, either not provided or not generally provided by other centres of learning. See Tree University
* Mathematical cosmologist.↑