A Visit by the Lesley University EcoPsychology Class
Last year, Farrington Nature Linc was lucky enough to have Dr. Jeffrey Perrin from Lesley University on our Program Committee. He supported our efforts to ground our work in current research which laid the foundation for our Pathways to Farrington. When his sabbatical took him away from the board, we hoped it would not take him away from the organization, so we were thrilled to get his request to bring out his EcoPsychology class this fall. He wanted his students to get a feel for the focus of a program at Farrington. Our Program Director, Brianne, decided to create a program that would walk the students through a very typical activity for our youth, with time for questions and engagement throughout.
Our EcoPsychology students followed the plan of a normal field trip to Farrington in order to learn about our philosophy about how to best help urban youth approach time in nature.
During field trips to Farrington, we follow a specific model, designed to allow more and more freedom as we go through the day. We start with a very structured program and move towards less-structured as the day continues so that the youth can slowly ease into their time in nature. We know that until a child feels comfortable in their environment, they will not be able to deeply connect to any activity, and thus will not have the full ability to engage or to learn.
While there is always variety in any group of youth, we fully expect that students will usually start their day with at least some apprehension about going into the woods. We try to make it easier for them by providing a specific structure. As an example: on a hike, we will start with an introduction to Farrington’s trails followed by a short activity that will allow the youth to practice a specific skill they can use in the woods. Connecting with them in a comfortable environment and practicing a specific, relevant skill gives the child some way to control their own experience.
We do lead activities throughout a walk, focusing on activating the knowledge the students already have, and encouraging growth by stretching that knowledge through observations and questions.
Once the group has moved through fear and gotten to a more comfortable place, then we are able to open up the experience. Often times this means a scavenger hunt or a design/ building challenge in the woods. Sometimes it is a game that requires near total immersion in the natural world.
We took the EcoPsychology students through the same process. They started by learning from some of our animal mentors, then walked into the woods to play Hawkeye. While the portion of students that started their visit apprehensive of going into the woods was probably less than in our normal groups, an introduction to Deer Ears, Owl Eyes, and Fox Walk can be just as valuable for those familiar with the natural world as those new to hiking.
After playing Hawkeye and learning a bit more about the history of the organization, we moved down to the parking lot for a closing circle. Dr. Perrin asked his students to think about one word that explained their experience today. Playful, energy, thoughtful, and calm, were all well-represented themes. Perhaps some of those EcoPsychology students will go on to the Environmental Education world, or perhaps not, but either way, they spent an afternoon with us focusing on how we at Farrington think about introducing urban youth to nature.
Do you have a college or high school class you’d like to bring to Farrington? Get in touch with Brianne, our Program Director by by email to develop an experience for your students.