Out of the Mouths of (Nature School) Babes
I had another talk with my friend Buddy recently. We had just settled into our “sit spots” in the
woods. A sit spot, which can be used anywhere in nature, is meant to help children learn how
to be still to observe their surroundings. As the other seven children plopped down on the
leaves, Buddy straddled a thin tree that was leaning at a 45-degree angle to the ground.
It is OK to finger the leaves and twigs nearby during a sit spot as long as everyone stays in their spot
and is quiet. Sometimes the children make fairy houses or animal habitats, and when we are
done, they get to show the class their creations. Other children sit quietly with their hands on
their laps, but when the sit spot is over, they can tell us a handful of things they saw and heard
nearby. At the beginning of the school year, we try sit spots for just a couple of minutes,
but the children naturally increase the time as the year progresses.
I could tell that Buddy, leaning up against the tree, had other plans for that eight minutes of his
life. Every once in a while, he looked at me, smiled mischievously, then pulled the green leaves
one by one off a plant. I just knew he was itching for human interaction. After a couple of minutes
of watching Buddy pluck and throw the leaves, I scooted close enough to whisper to him.
“Buddy,” I said, “if you pull all of the green leaves off the tree, it will die.” Buddy shook his
head and continued to pluck. “No, it’s an invasive species,” he said nonchalantly. Last year we
talked about the Coral Berry plant, with its smooth green leaves and bright red berries, that
has taken over the woods around Nature Connect. When we learned as a staff that it was an
invasive species, we encouraged the children to pull them out of the ground. But since I didn’t
see any berries, I wasn’t convinced it was the Coral Berry plant.
“What type of plant do you think it is?” I whispered to Buddy. Without skipping a beat, he said,
“It’s a Coral Berry plant.”
“But, Buddy, I don’t see any berries.” Buddy then climbed off his tree, bent down, and tilted his
head up like he was looking under a table. “See? Berries.” Sure enough, there was a pod of
small green berries that would eventually turn red.
I left Buddy to his tree and berry bush and scooted back to my sit spot in awe of the little
naturalist. When our time was up, I again engaged Buddy in conversation. I was curious to see
how much he knew. “Buddy, you said the word ‘invasive species.’ What is that?” I asked.
“It’s when a plant comes from China and grows here, but it’s not supposed to,” he said. I
pushed Buddy one question further. “Why is it bad if it grows here?” I asked.
“Because it kills the other plants!” And with that, he ran off to join his friends on the path that
would lead to another day’s adventure at Nature Connect.