By Naturalist Lily Eligator
“...and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
-Vincent van Gogh
One warm and sunny Thursday afternoon in September, I was getting ready to take my group of sixth graders up the “big dune” on our Cowles Bog hike. Met with a few groans and complaints about the height of the dune (as I frequently am), I told them that I was positive that they would make it up with no problem and promised them a super long break at the top.
Once everyone made it to the top safe, sound, and out of breath, I had each child sit down and start working on the page in their journals titled “A Few Minutes Alone.” This page is meant to help kids internalize what they are experiencing, and I encourage them to write or draw whatever they feel has impacted them the most on the hike. After giving my students a few minutes in the shade to write, I asked for volunteers to share with the group. One hand instantly shot up; it was Chloe, a bubbly, outgoing kid, whose hand I saw frequently.
“I wrote a poem,” she said emphatically, and I encouraged her to read it out loud. I don’t exactly know what I was expecting from this poem, but I know that I wasn’t expecting to be moved by her words as much as I was. This moment really forced me to pay attention to the present. Fortunately, Chloe and her parents gave me permission to share her beautiful poem with you:
I see the leaves glisten,
I see the trees shine,
I hear the people around me listen to the birds’ sweet cry,
I sit in silence all light is above, as I write this poem to express my love;
The light peeks through, the blocked light that leaks
In the world of nature,
Where the sun shines and lay,
The sand is crunchy and I am happy to see all today
-Chloe D., 6th Grader at Francis W. Parker School, written September 2019
Listening to this poem (and reading it multiple times since hearing it) made me so happy. It reminded me of why I pursued environmental education in the first place: I love watching kids create connections with the world around them. Not all of the kids who walk through the doors at Dunes Learning Center will become scientists, climate activists, or naturalists. Some of the kids we meet will become lawyers, doctors, engineers, and yes - poets. I am so happy to help a child to connect with their world, whether they are future scientists, poets, or anything in between.