Thursday, October 29, 2015

mini book review: the sense of wonder

By Rachel L. Carson, author of Silent Spring, this little book, The Sense of Wonder (1965), takes only a little over half an hour to listen to as an audiobook. It's a beautiful little piece that encourages us to inculcate a sense of wonder in our children. She talks about how this is more important than knowledge, because we can learn more information as we get older, but developing a sense of wonder if we haven't developed it as a child is much more difficult. She talks about how each of us can take children outside, or even sit and look out a window, watching the birds or small creatures we see, stooping to pick up a small leaf or shell to examine carefully. We can take kids outside at night to look at the wonder of the stars and moon, or we can walk on the beach and notice and experience awe.

What I liked most about this book is that she really attempts to make these suggestions accessible. One doesn't have to be a scientist or a naturalist in order to spend time exploring and experiencing wonder with kids. She made it clear that an adult need not know the names for everything — or for anything! But just noticing and being present to the experience is what's important. Carson talks about spending time with her small nephew, and how she would take him out on the beach at night to experience a storm, or walk through the woods in different seasons. When it was too cold or wet to go out, they looked out her window, but she also recognized that for children, it's fun and exciting to go outside on a wet day and experience the world that comes out in the rain. She talked about noticing birds, even if one can't identify them, paying attention to when they appear and wondering about migratory patterns. For those with the privilege of a microscope or a telescope, more in-depth explorations can happen, such as looking at the moon with a telescope and waiting for migrating birds to pass between us and the moon.

I loved this playful and insightful book, and I hope to put some of her ideas into practice with my kids. Her insight about the greater importance of wonder over knowledge was something I have known but had never put into words, and it provides a new freedom for me, since I don't know the names of all the birds or information about all the plants. But my sons and I do have fun collecting bugs or watching birds, noticing seasonal changes, listening to the sounds we can hear from our yard, and attending to tiny patterns and vast cloud formations. This gives me a renewed sense of excitement to do this more often.

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