Read testimonials and accounts of participants of Sharing Nature activities excerpted from Joseph Cornell’s book “Deep Nature Play: A Guide to Wholeness, Aliveness, Creativity, and Inspired Learning.”
“This was the most practical (and certainly the most enjoyable) in-service course that I’ve ever attended – maximum participation, maximum communication and maximum usefulness –congratulations. My only regret was that it was too short.”
Deep Nature Play © Joseph Cornell 2016. Cited below with permission.
“The Flow Learning strategy is so potent, so gentle, that it feels like the most natural and obvious way to communicate nature education to children and adults of any age. It works in harmony with people’s innate states of being, channeling their energy and contemplation at the most effective times for learning and appreciating.
“One of my favorite aspects of Flow Learning is watching a group of strangers become physically and mentally attuned to one another and to their natural environment within minutes of beginning the first stage of the program, when the Flow Learning strategy’s purpose is to awaken enthusiasm. Nervousness and shyness melt away as children and adults alike adopt a playground playfulness, and the group unites in a childlike spirit of innocence, inclusivity, and fun. They are now so open and willing to learn.
“What never ceases to amaze me is that people so easily engage with Josephs activities, and that amongst the older children in particular you can see them excited at being encouraged to play and learn and explore their senses in a way that is too often restricted to only the youngest of children. At heart, I believe people of all ages truly appreciate opportunities to return to the simplicity of the young child’s world, and the Sharing Nature activities and games allow and encourage us all to do that. An unspoken permission is granted, the weight of our years is removed by the opportunity to refresh and revitalize our spirit through playing with and within our natural environment.”
—Kate Akers, National Executive Member, New Zealand Association for Environmental Education
David Blanchette is a teacher at the Punahou School on Oahu Island, Hawaii. There, every year he leads thirteen-year-old students on a nature excursion along a remote and wild coastline where they play the Sharing Nature exercise Expanding Circles. In this exercise, players find a place with a panoramic view and an interesting foreground. Then, in gradual stages, they expand their awareness starting from close by all the way out to the distant horizon, feeling themselves moving and becoming alive in everything they see. Below are representative comments made by his students after practicing Expanding Circles:
“I felt euphoria.”
“I felt like I was one with everything around me.”
“I was a calm ocean wave gently rolling towards the shore.”
“I was the reef, feeling the cool water roll over me. Every part of me was moving and flowing in harmony.”
After finishing the exercise, Jessica, one of Davids students, wishing to express her appreciation for the ocean, gratefully wrote “thank you” in the sand, then let the waves wash her words away, as though the ocean were absorbing her gratitude into its vastness.
“I was trained in my profession to see trees as a commercial commodity. But now, after experiencing the Sharing Nature activities, I realize that the grasses are my friends, the trees are my friends, that every living thing in the woodland is my friend. This, for me, is a new way of looking at trees. This awareness is going to fundamentally change the way I work with the forest.”
– Johann, a professional German forester
“Through the Sharing Nature activities, I feel like I am discovering a new continent.”
– Participant at Sharing Nature training in Shenzen, China (see article on China tour 2017)
Rita Mendoca, Brazil’s Sharing Nature national coordinator, once gave a training program in the Amazon for professional ecotourism guides, some of whom had worked in that area for forty years. Their attitude at first was that Rita (coming from the city of Sao Paulo) had little to teach them. But one woman, after participating in several Sharing Nature exercises, approached Rita and said with deep emotion, “You are helping me find the forest inside of me! We don’t know the forest in this way!”
“From the profound effect of the workshop on me, I know that if I can touch people this deeply, I can make a huge difference in this world.”
One popular Stage Three activity is Vertical Poem. To play, observe something that captivates you—perhaps a field of flowers or a secluded sea cove. Notice its effect on you, and choose a word that captures your feeling. Then use each letter of the word to begin a line of your poem.
In Taiwan I once led eighty people down a steep, narrow track to a stunningly beautiful gorge. The trail and chasm were so confining that I couldn’t gather the group together. Vertical Poem was the perfect exercise for that setting. In the depths of the gorge, eighty people, immersed in the chasm scenery, composed vertical poems. Composing the poems quieted the group and allowed people to become more present, more immersed in their surroundings.
After climbing out of the canyon, many participants read their poems to the group—each poem beautifully and uniquely expressing our shared experience of the gorge.