In Our Heart of the Woods
Field Notes, Week 3: It’s week three and our amazing learners couldn’t wait to get into their home in the woods. We asked them if they wanted to take a longer hike into their home and the majority of our learners exclaimed, “No- we want to play!” As a learner-led program, we honor and celebrate their interests and followed suit. A few of the learners that did want to take a longer hike in, did so with a leader and discovered unique areas of our woods, covered completely in moss and small plants. We wondered why this area was so different than other areas. We will be sure to follow up this wonder with more questions and interest- led learning.
As we all gathered in our “heart of the woods”, fondly named by one of our learners, serious play was scattered about. Everyone had jobs to do and were focused on their tasks at hand, including making wood cookie necklaces and even a wood cookie monster, complete with an open and closing mouth (SO creative and well engineered). Fairy villages were again a main focus for quite a few learners, as they wondered what the fairies might like to eat and where they would play and sleep. They empathized what it’s like to be apart of a fairy village and were eager to learn more about fairy culture. They then problem-solved to make their villages as fairy-centric as possible. This curiosity and action for others (even if imaginary) is the basis for empathy and compassion.
With empathy on the mind, let’s dig deeper, as empathy is often often confused with sympathy and compassion. Sympathy means recognizing someone’s emotions, but empathy takes it a step further—with empathy, you feel the same emotion as the other person because you can imagine yourself in their place. And compassion takes this further still—when you are compassionate, you feel the need to act on another’s emotions to help relieve their suffering.
The difference may seem small, but it’s not. In order to effect true change in the world, we need to first recognize the condition of others, fully understand the weight of a person’s situation—best done by imagining ourselves in the same scenario—and then feel compelled to act. THIS type of compassion is what our learners are experiencing through authentic play in nature, where we are all connected.
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