Today, students look closely at medicinal herbs. They draw, describe and name a plant based on its physical attributes. Students craft questions that begin with “I wonder” or “I notice”. On this mid-autumn day we release the assumption that knowing facts is more important than noticing qualities. We are scientific observers of our woodland ECO camp.
Students explore and observe calendula flowers I brought from my garden. One student spends the better part of a half hour sketching the layers of the flower it with a pencil. She has discovered the serrated edges, the layering of ring after ring of petals. She draws what she sees in this moment with care and attention.
Another student stops at a stand of seeding sunflowers.
“Wait, does this sunflower actually create sunflower seeds?”
She proceeds to dissect it and find dark black sunflower seeds just like the ones she eats from a grocery store Planters' brand bag. The seeds are tucked below the waning composite flowers of the seed head.
“Wow! Can I, like, eat this? Can I take this back to share with my classmates?”
Excitedly, she returns to her classmates with this discovery at our closing circle.
Today began with “I wonder” and ended with “I discovered!” Making a discovery is often accompanied by excitement which triggers specific neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. These chemicals create a memory that lasts longer and is filed differently than fact recall memories, such as those we absorb from a lecture or read in a textbook. It takes a bit longer to discover the world around us than it does to absorb it from a lecture. ECO gives us the opportunity to take the time to wonder and notice in tribute to long lasting memories.