This week in my first grade class, we have been learning about Jane Goodall. My students love that, just like they do, she loves animals. I love that they recognize patience is a tool she used in her research, that building relationships takes time and effort–and sometimes that effort means just being present until trust is built. Showing up, paying attention, and caring are key.
Jane Goodall, according to her picture book biography The Watcher by Jeannette Winter, was always curious and a supreme observer from an early age. She watched bugs and chickens, recognizing that careful observation was a rich source of information.
To try on Jane’s observational skills, we headed outside with notebooks and pencils in hand to use our senses in the school pollinator garden (better known by the students as the fairy garden). The directions were simple: find something interesting, watch and notice using all your senses (we acknowledged we wouldn’t be tasting anything before we headed out), make a sketch of whatever you are observing, include writing to add details about what you are noticing.
The synergy of observing under the influence of Jane Goodall and writing outside resulted in a magical writing experience. Students were focused and engaged–there is nothing like watching a formerly struggling writer putting words independently on the page and then asking for more time because he had more to say. And the unexpected, “thank you for teaching me today,” from the high performing student–who had experienced joy writing outdoors. This experience with ordinary nature, the ants, the sticks, the fallen leaves, some lavender, a few bees, the sun on our shoulders and pencils in hand inspired us. We wrote and learned and shared under the influence of Jane Goodall and her indomitable spirit and the magic of being outside, in nature.