This piece was originally published in Perspectives in Bioregional Education, edited by Frank Traina and Susan Darley-Hill, North American Association for Environmental Education, copyright 1995.
The program at Sunrock Farm deals with connecting with the natural world through a combination of farm, native peoples, artistic, and wildness experiences. The totality of these experiences should enhance the child’s knowledge and feeling of being connected to, interdependent with, and having affinity for Nature. All things are interconnected into a giant web of life, all things are bonded into one family with a flow of materials and energy going through everything. What is in us at one point soon becomes something else. And that which was other before is now us. This flow is part of the “Great Dance’’ and the “Great Wheel”. Everything goes around and it is desireable for the child to appreciate this and build upon it a personal relationship with Nature.
At Sunrock Farm the goal is to allow the child to experience this flow of materials and flow of energy. Things which we take in: water, air, carrots, eggs, milk, sun energy, earth minerals, ideas, memories, beautiful scenery can be said to be enfolded within us. Helping the child to enfold the things and the actions of Nature is an art. It cannot be done by only talking to the child. It certainly cannot be done if the child only relates to people. The child needs to be receptive to “listening” to the air, to water, to soil, to chickens, to broccoli, to sun, to rain, to the heat. Nature is always talking to us and listening to us, so we need to learn to listen and to talk.
The art of enfolding means Nature is both without us and within us. When we enfold the things of Nature within us we expand our egos and grow outward. Some would describe this as “growing in awareness” or “expanding our consciousness.” At Sunrock we see this in a child’s wide eyes and smile as they tell us they learned a lot and had a great time. But what they “learned” goes far beyond what can be expressed in words. Our goal is to have the children “feel” their connections with Nature and “feel” the experience of being part of Nature. So we feel the hot sun on our face in the garden, get hands dirty in the soil, pick vegetables and eat them. This is a simple activity, but it tells the children a lot about participation in Nature.
The art of enfolding is knowing how to introduce the child to the wonders of Nature and how to let Nature speak to the child in a beneficial way, that is, help the child enfold the gifts from Nature.
“Farmer” Frank Traina (1943-2014) was an educator and writer. After earning his PhD in sociology from Cornell, he moved to Kentucky to teach at Northern Kentucky University, but ended up devoting himself instead to the farm he purchased in Wilder, KY in 1978. Sunrock Farm hosted educational programs that “raised consciousness,” serving mostly Cincinnati-area children. About 25,000 people visited annually for decades. Farmer Frank also published Pollen, a journal of the North American Bioregional Congress Bioregional Education Committee.
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