Love, Nature, and Friendship: It All Starts with Gratitude

Love, Nature, and Friendship: It All Starts with Gratitude

By: Noah Sorin

As the morning dew glistens on the leaves and the air carries the fresh scent of earth, a day at Boston Outdoor Preschool Network (BOPN) always begins by singing "good morning dear Earth" and winds down with a nurturing "thank you dear earth" as well. This ritual, simple in its form but profound in its impact, marks the beginning and end of each day at BOPN, embedding a deep sense of gratitude in the hearts of our youngest learners.

The concept of gratitude, especially in the context of nature-based education, goes far beyond the mere act of saying thank you. It is about recognizing and appreciating the beauty and bounty that the natural world bestows upon us. It is about fostering an enduring bond between children and the environment, nurturing a foundation of love for nature that is pivotal for their development.

Gratitude is not just an emotion but a powerful practice that, when cultivated from a young age, can significantly influence one's perspective towards life and the environment. At BOPN, every day ends with an activity that we call a gratitude circle. This special time gives each child the opportunity to share something they are thankful for that they experienced during their day at school. This practice not only enhances their communication skills but also encourages them to observe and appreciate the smaller details of their surroundings, fostering a natural curiosity and love for the environment and their peers. Sometimes the kids say they are grateful for the mud they played in, sometimes they are grateful for the trees they climbed, and sometimes they are just thankful for the friends they spent time with that day.

This emphasis on gratitude aligns with the educational benefits that come from teaching thankfulness practices. Research suggests that gratitude in children leads to higher levels of positive emotions, more satisfaction with life, hope, and optimism. Furthermore, children who practice gratitude show a decreased level of materialism and a stronger inclination to protect the environment.

Stewardship of the environment starts with an appreciation for the natural world and understanding the interconnectedness of all living things. By teaching children to express gratitude for nature, we are sowing the seeds of environmental stewardship. Appreciating the beauty of a flower, the shade of a tree, or the fresh air we breathe encourages a protective stance towards these gifts. It teaches children that we are all part of a larger ecosystem, reliant on each other for survival and well-being.

Growing up on an organic vegetable farm in northern Vermont granted me a deep appreciation for the natural world. The beauty and magic of nature, experienced through hiking, camping, fishing, and gardening, instilled in me a profound sense of responsibility towards preserving our environment. It's a sentiment I carry with me and one that we strive to impart to the children at BOPN through our nature-based learning activities every single day.

Implementing gratitude practices into daily routines doesn't have to be complicated. It can be as simple as starting the day by acknowledging something you're thankful for or ending it by reflecting on a positive experience. Encourage children to observe nature, to see the wonders it holds, and to express thanks for its countless gifts. These practices can significantly impact their attitude towards life and the environment, fostering a generation that values and protects our natural world.

In conclusion, the journey of love, nature, and friendship all starts with gratitude. At BOPN, we believe in the power of gratitude to not only enhance the educational experience of our children but to also foster a deep-rooted sense of environmental stewardship. By embedding practices of thankfulness in our daily routines, we nurture a more compassionate, mindful, and environmentally conscious generation. Together, let's take a moment to appreciate the beauty around us and say, "thank you dear earth," for everything it gives us.

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