Friday, April 10, 2009


The second grades spent two days this week at an Audubon Society center in the city. It is a true green oasis in the midst of urbia (that's the opposite of "suburbia"). It smells like the woods, and it sounds like the woods, and that is rare to find in these parts. Even though large portions of my life have been spent in rural spaces, for many of my students this is a relatively unknown world.

I told them we would go on a hike on the second afternoon. They know I love to hike. We sat in a circle in the sun to get ready for what was really more of an amble over half a mile of flat trail than a hike.

"We're going hiking!" I announced.

A shout of approval went up. "Yay!"

"Wow," I said. "There is just about nothing that makes me happier than if I say 'We're going hiking' and people say 'Yay!' Let's do it again! We're going hiking!"

"Yay!" they cried even more enthusiastically, always eager to please.

"So, there are 4 things you need to know about hiking," I said. "And the first one is this. Hiking is hard work. So you have to be really strong and tough to do it. And that means no complaining. Even when it's hard, and you're tired, and you want to stop, you can't complain, because you have to be really tough.

"Second, I'm going to be first, and you need to be behind me." [We talked a bit about how we would make sure no one fell too far behind.] "Third, we want to see birds and animals, so we have to try to go quietly in the woods so we don't scare them away." [We agreed on a quiet way to get each others' attention if we needed to show each other something.] "And last, it's important to stay on the trail, because if we walk off the trail, we'll step on things and hurt them, and we want to leave the forest the way we found it."

I told them I had learned to hike when I was their age, about 8.

"When you learned to hike, did you complain?" Pili asked.

(It is at this point in the narrative, if not before, that my parents give each other knowing looks and chuckle.)

I thought for a minute and said, "Yes, actually, I did use to whine and complain when I went hiking. But that was because no one told me that you had to be tough and strong to hike. I didn't know that rule of hiking. And at first I didn't like it that much. But after awhile I discovered that the woods were full of beautiful things to see, and I learned that if I was really tired, instead of thinking about how much farther I had to go, I could just think about each step, one at a time. When it's hard, I try to think about this step that I'm taking right now, and nothing else."

"And then you get there!" Amelia finished my thought.

"Yes, then I get there," I repeated.

I am happy to report that 16 of us "hiked" through the urban wilds for over an hour, with a grand total of zero complaints. It was warm and gentle there, and we looked at small bugs, tree bark, cattails, mallards, and burrs. We picked up sticks and put them down again, we watched red-tailed hawks coast above us, and we enjoyed the first moments of spring.

No comments:

Post a Comment