Is nature irrelevant or less visible in our modern city life style?
The answer seems to be no. Look at the materials we choose to use, the designs and decorations of our spaces and clothes, and our recreational choices. Nature seems to dominate many of them. We love and pay a lot of money to buy natural stones such as diamonds. We decorate our offices by real or fake flowers and plants. We choose to spend our vacations by blue oceans. But, do we experience nature in the same way in all of these choices?
Some of us are trained to understand the differences only if they are put into categories. So let’s try to categorize our different experiences with nature. Here’s one …
Look at the picture of my daughter reading the Disney version of the story of Cinderella while feeding her toy teddy bear. She is experiencing the symbolic images and representations of nature. The story of Cinderella is full of animals (birds, mice, horses, dogs) that can talk and play the roles of very important characters in the story. Her book is decorated by pictures of the beautiful green landscapes and gardens of the palace of the king. And it is even more interesting to see that she manages to feed a polar bear! Of course a toy one. Here, she experiences nature but symbolically.
Symbolic experiences with nature are not new. They have historical roots in fables, myths, and totems over the long route of human evolution. These experiences are crucial.
What else can you think of as children’ symbolic experiences with nature? What do children learn through these experiences? In what ways is this kind of learning important? In what ways can it mis-lead children?