"If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder … he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in” (Carson, 1956, p. 49).
The main reason I focused my action research project on the topic of wonder is because I truly believe it is essential for children to become lifelong learners. All too often I've found that life quickly becomes predictable for my students. The initial curiosity for the world quickly gets snuffed out and becomes replaced with comments such as, "Oh I've seen that before" or "I already know about this." I hope that throughout my career and life, I can help my students (and myself) regain the sparkle in our eye and see the world through a fresh lens once again.
Now, I'll admit ... I'm a bit of a romantic when it comes to education and learning. I guess what I'm trying to say is that all too quickly I move from what is real to what should be ideal. I often forget that life is messy, complicated and usually doesn't go the way I envision. That can be tough for me. However, it is vital to accept as I journey throughout life. Not every child will come to value wonder. Not every parent will see the value of it either or make time for it. As people, we all have different values and I don't want to force my ways on to anyone.
With that being said though, I have seen the true value of wonder. Of slowing down. Taking the path less travelled. Staying out longer. Going barefoot in the grass.
The results? More patience for myself and those around me. Priceless memories that I will remember for a lifetime. Genuine interest in the world and a hunger to learn how it all works. A true appreciation for life and the breathe in my lungs.
So how can this be accomplished? Well, we can start by being that one adult who values wonder in the life of a child. I hope throughout my life I will hear myself say phrases such as: "Let's go exploring. Did you notice that? Have you tasted this? And come over here!"
Switching gears for a moment. I am grateful to share that my wife and I recently welcomed twins into the world ... a beautiful son and daughter! As you can imagine, I truly hope they will come to see the world as wonder-full. I fear, however, that I will fail them in this area. That I will spend too much time at work, on my phone or in-front of the T.V. Now there is no shame in work, spending time on your phone or watching a favorite show. My concern, however, is that I will forget the value of wonder and let it go to the wayside.
That my friend is where you come into the picture. You see, as I was finishing my Master's degree, I was asked a very interesting question by a professor. It went something like this: "Jordan, I'm glad to see that you value wonder. In fact, it is quite important to me as well. However, I have children and often let them watch shows or play games on their tablets. I'm afraid that this is hard to instill in others when so many other things are competing for their attention. How will you as a parent try to instill wonder in your own children?"
If I'm honest, I froze for a second when that question was posed. "Of course I'll be great at this. I'll take them camping a couple times a year. It's not that hard is it!?" I told you I was a romantic. For those of you who have children, you are probably smiling and seeing how naïve I was in that moment. Life is just not that simple.
After a moment of thinking the question over, I landed on the following response. "This is something I can't do alone. I will need to lean on others to show my children just how amazing this world is." If I'm honest, that was hard for me to admit and is even harder for me to say now that my children are here in the flesh. However, it is true. I don't know everything there is to know. In fact, I know very little. That doesn't need to be the end of the story though. I have friends and family members who are experts in many fields. I hope they can teach my children how small engines work. Explain how colours are made when they watch a sunset. Describe how plants grow when they are in a garden and help them collect honey from a hive.
I'm not saying that I won't do my part. In fact, this seems like a good time to write a declaration for my son and daughter: "Kids, your Dad loves you more than you will ever know. I want what is best for you and I believe part of that is showing you just how beautiful and amazing the world is. I will do my best to get up early to show you a sunrise. To help you land a rainbow trout and marvel at its vibrant colors. To go for slow walks and be amazed at the size of cedar trees around us. To visit rivers and be amazed at the power of the current. But kids, I simply won't be able to show and teach you everything. However, I'll do my best to ask for help. To involve others in your life. To know my limits and lean on others when its needed. And you know what? You won't ever know everything there is to know. You won't be able to see every sunset, flower or bird. You won't be able to taste every kind of food or drink that exists. But don't let that stop you from living and experiencing life to the fullest. Although the world is broken, it is also full of amazing surprises. I hope you will come to see and experience that. Love, Dad."
So friend, can I count on you to help me? Can you be there for my kids or the children in your life? They need us. Yes, life is hard but it's also incredibly beautiful. Let's show them that together. All they may need is one invested adult ... however, I think we can do better than that!
Carson, R. (1956). The Sense of Wonder: A Celebration of Nature for Parents and Children.
New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.