Posted on March 1, 2020
As we carry on with our place inquiry, we are discovering the reciprocal relationship we have with the mountains we are studying. We interact with the mountains, and in turn the mountains interact with us. With this concept in mind, we had the opportunity to gather information in two exciting ways!
One of those ways was by meeting and learning from an expert. Last Friday, A.K.'s parents presented information on "earthing" and allowed the children to experience the positive benefits of interacting with nature by touching trees with their bare hands and stepping barefoot on to the soft grass. If we compare the human-nature relationship of the past to today's modern world, we can see a significant reduction in time spent in nature. Often times, we go from the house, to the car, to the store--all without interacting with nature. A.K.'s parents also pointed out that during the limited time that we are outside, the barrier of our shoes prevents us from fully interacting and benefiting from all that nature has to give. After being made aware of this, we stepped outside onto a small patch of grass lined with lilikoi trees on the edge of our Elementary School Campus. It was here that our experts suggested that we remove our shoes, feel the grass and soil beneath our feet, touch our palms to the trees, and take in the energy of nature. Some children were at first reluctant to remove their shoes. Other children immediately pulled off shoes and socks, digging their toes into the lush green grass. After seeing the barefoot children and the joy on their faces, more children readily slipped out of their footwear and began roaming the grass, jumping, laying down, and even chanting, "We're so free! We're so free!"
Upon returning to class, the children reflected on the experience:
J.Y.: "It's like the core of the earth the electricity goes through the earth, and when you're barefoot, it is like putting a wire on your feet and the good electricity goes in your body." J.Y.
E.K.:"When A.K.'s dad came in, I could see that when the sun is out but if we walk with our shoes, the good energy can't get to us. But if we are barefoot, then the sun can get to our feet."
S.H.: "I learned that there is a good energy and when you go barefoot, even with just one foot, it works because you get good energy."
M.Y.: "What I noticed when I tried it is when you were barefoot it felt like I was a tree and we can even try it at home."
M.N. "I never knew that when you're wearing shoes, you're not next to the earth, but when you are barefoot or touching trees, it counts."
While there are, of course, times that we do need footwear for safety reasons, this learning from our experts was such a good reminder for us all about the benefits of increasing our interactions with nature, of literally stepping outside what has become routine, and taking the time to be more closely connected with the earth.
This experience set us up perfectly for our research trip to Wa`ahila Ridge. This mountain region has become legendary to our class, as it is the location of Kauhi, one of the protagonists from the mo`olelo that has served as a foundation for our inquiry this year. In the mo`olelo, Kahalaopuna, Kauhi, having been tricked by his friends, believes that his love (Rainbow Spirit, Kahalaopuna) has been untrue and he proceeds to destroy her. After multiple attempts, the Sky Gods punish Kauhi by making him lay on his back and face the sky in shame. He becomes Wa`ahila Ridge. We can see Wa`ahila Ridge from our campus, but if you get a chance to go to go with your child to Mānoa Valley District Park, the view of Kauhi's profile is so clear and distinct, you truly cannot miss it!
We headed up to Wa`ahila Ridge to connect with the mountain, to observe and reflect in different ways. Our task was to practice observing and recording our thoughts by documenting sensory details (the sights, sounds, smells, feelings of touch and feelings in our hearts). It was also to record "Wows and Wonders" as we have been while reading our non-fiction books during Readers' Workshop. The children were also tasked with creating observational drawings and taking photographs to document what they were noticing. Lastly, the children were all encouraged to document their thinking through poetry.
With all of these wonderful gifts from the mountain, it was also important that we take the time to simply be present and grateful for the opportunity. We engaged in two activities at the start and at the end of our trip to ensure that we were able to show gratitude and that we were able to stop to connect with the space. At the beginning of our trip, after deboarding the bus, we took a moment to give the mountain our gift of `oli (Hawaiian Chant). The children's voices were beautiful and clear as they asked for knowledge to be granted to us. At the end of our trip, we took a moment to engage in "Mindful Minute." This is a practice we do on occasion in the classroom. In our classroom we close our eyes or watch a peaceful nature scene on the TV screen and breathe calmly for a minute. The children all commented how we did not need the TV because here we are in nature--the real deal! After completing our mindful minute the children commented how special it was to engage in the activity in the natural setting of Wa`ahila Ridge. K.O. remarked, "That was the best mindful minute ever!" and S.Y. stated ever so poetically, "When I was breathing, I felt the air breathing with me."