“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
I spent Memorial Day weekend in Western North Carolina. I felt my ears pop and large mounds of land sprout up from the Earth as we drove north. I spent 3 days surrounded by nature; a mile-high bridge across a mountaintop, a steep drive up a mountain to a secluded cabin, stargazing from a farm in the valley, and even ziplining through a forest. All of these experiences made me feel a sense of awe and wonder at the world I live in.
Through these experience, I began to wonder what would happen if students were able to experience the wonders of nature firsthand. As school becomes more intense and students spend more free time indoors with friends or phones, I wonder if they get the opportunity to truly explore the Earth and be awestruck by it.
Mother Nature has many lessons to teach to those who pay attention to it. There are trees and plants that can withstand extremely severe weather conditions, flowers and animals that are beautiful enough to leave people speechless, and vast areas of land and water that help us understand how insignificant we are in the face of creation.
For me, mountains are some of the most wonderful parts of the world we live in. I have always been awed by their size and power, despite not having the experience or guts to climb them. Being in the mountains helps me realize that I am small and I know so little about the world I live in and about life, in general. They also remind me of the first revelation of Islam which came to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) while he meditated in a cave on a mountain. I wonder about his experience on that mountain and what he felt about nature, but I can also understand how a mountain atmosphere might enhance one’s experience with meditation and reflection.
Nature brings out the wonder and awe in all of us. For some, it is the vastness of the ocean and for others the solidity of the mountains or the magnitude of the forests or deserts. I believe it is this aspect of wonder and awe that is oftentimes missing from education and from the lives of children. Taking students out into nature might help them develop a sense of wonder in the world, but what if they felt this same sensation while learning something new about history or math or science or religion? What would it take to make that happen?