Grandparents Teach, Too: Teaching kids nature is full of sounds

“The song of earth has many different chords” – Amy Lowell

Children can become good listeners while walking in fields, along a shore, in the mountains and forest or their own backyard. The trick is to get them to be very quiet. Juliet Robertson and Chris Hall both expert teachers and naturalists have some suggestions.

Deer Ears

Ms. Robertson uses owl ears and Mr. Hall uses deer ears, but the idea is the same. Children cup their hands like scooping up water and place the hands behind their ears to collect sounds like satellite dishes. Children may have observed animals moving their cupped shaped ears around when they are on high alert gathering sounds. The cupped ear triples the size of the outer ear.

Children can find a pleasant spot, cup their ears, and be very, very still. Some naturalists ask children to blink very hard or wink when they hear a new sound. This distraction keeps them quiet for a time. They will will let you know when it is time to stop.

Another interesting activity is to find a snail or slug. Do not handle it. Leave it on the ground and experiment with different pitches of sound. When someone reaches the correct pitch, the animal will uncurl, stretch its antennae and start moving.

Walking quietly

Children can also learn to walk quietly based on Native American teachings. Place the heel of the foot on the path ahead. Carefully place the foot down on the outer edge first and roll the rest of the sole down until it touches the ground. Stop if you make a sound, pause, and slowly continue. Crouch low and bend the knees. Walk slowly and carefully with the body balanced low over the center of gravity. The foot is never totally flat. Soft sole running type shoes or bare foot work well. Children can practice bare foot or with socks walking on newspaper. They can also practice walking with shoes on gravel. Children find quiet walking a lot of fun and will learn to how sneak up on the rest of the family once they learn the technique.

The “cat walk” like a cat stalking prey. This is done for a very short time, straining to move very slowly. To do this walk lift your foot and point your toes at the ground. When you put your foot on the around again touch the out edge first. Next roll the rest of the foot down until the sole touches the ground and repeat with the next foot.

Inhale and exhale very quietly through the nose with the mouth shut. When walking with others, match one person’s pace and feet exactly.

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