Sensory Diet in the Great Outdoors
It amazes me how interconnected everything is in this world. It is more amazing how you can find some extremely reinforcing information in the oddest of locations. I would have never thought that a book on tracking animals would give me the same lessons that one would get from a clinical book on experience based learning and our sensory systems.
I found a book on tracking by a fellow named Tom Brown Jr. Though I wasn't particularly interested in hunting, I was intrigued by a particular concept. The book stated that in order to know your surroundings, you must completely immerse yourself into those surroundings first. For this to happen, one must be more in tune to their senses and how to use them appropriately to fully experience the world extensively. These words of advise parallels notions of coaxing students to pull out of their self absorbed world and to dare to experience the world around them. Everything in this chapter was about first hand experiences being the best learning tool learn from the world. He talks of going out into the wild and allowing your experiences be your teacher and that knowing something by experiencing it personally trumps any information that you can find in a book or lecture. The chapter encourages the learner to sit in swamps to know the cold wet mud, and to let the mosquito bite you, because it is just as much a part of the experience as any. To walk barefoot and with minimal clothing so there is as little as possible between you and your surroundings. And best of all to just sit, relax, and observe... you would be amazed at what happens in the forest when people stop moving and making noise.
So here I am, walking through the woods as slowly and as quietly as possible, seeing with only my peripherals, trying my darnedest to “see” with my feet, and the suggestion ringing in my head stating to see, hear, smell, and feel everything I could possibly muster. I felt I had a good idea what the outdoors was like by hiking and camping and bounding about. It wasn't until it was suggested that experiencing the outdoors, above all else, is a sensory experience. It was at this point that I realized I had a whole lot of learning ahead of me.
Ron Burd, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
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