This year I began teaching my daughter about wild edible plants, fire making, and tracking. She is 3. It took me a long time to get my head around the idea that I was going to teach my 3 year old girl to eat plants and make fires. She is the most precious thing in the world to me, and this seemed like a really dangerous prospect. I thought it over for months, I talked to my dad, I talked to my wife, I talked to Nurses and Doctors that I work with. I did research, and ultimately I decided that Kids need to know these things. She is not dumb, She knows that you can’t just eat whatever you find, and she knows that she can’t start fires on her own. These skills, and this knowledge are vital for our upcoming generations. This world is not in danger, I do not believe that the earth will be going anywhere anytime soon. However, We could be in a pretty tight spot before too long. If we can manage to give our children the collective knowledge of our ancestors, and connect them to the earth in a way that gives them a sense of meaning in this world. Then, then we can start to make some real change. There have been people on this earth for roughly 7,000,000 years give or take a century or two. From sahalanthropus tchedensis, until about 200 years ago, people lived as part of nature. As a part of the food chain. They knew that everything that a person could ever possibly need came from the earth. These people lived long happy mostly healthy and free lives. They had a ton of leisure time, and only “worked” to keep themselves warm, and fed. We can share these skills with our children in a safe and respectful way. We can make it a game even. If you do not possess these skills, there are plenty of good people who love to share their knowledge and love working with kids. You can facilitate this learning.
When I am teaching my daughter, I do not sit her down and say “OK, time to learn.” I say “hey! Do you want to go out to the woods?” This usually means time with grandpa Gregg, and it usually means ice cream on the way home. She loves it. So, we go out in the woods, I have a few forests that I frequent. I never have an agenda in mind, we just go. If we see some good tracks we stop and talk about animals and try to figure out which animal made these tracks and what they might have been doing when they made these tracks. We will spend a lot of time talking about what the animal might have been doing, or where they were headed. We attempt to surmise what time of day it could have been when they passed based on track erosion and animal behavior. Is it a mom, or a baby? How many are there? These are the questions that make a good tracker, and my 3 year old is doing it.
When we don’t see good tracks right away we look for plants. She is 3 she gets distracted and bored easily. If we see an easily identifiable plant we will discuss it. Have you seen this one before? Where? Do you remember what it’s called? If she does she gets rewarded with praise or a flower, or whatever. If not we talk about it. This is a dandelion, we have them at home. You can eat the leaves and the flower. As such, and so passes our time. We usually go for about 2 hours, it’s about all she can take at a time. She can now identify several common plants, and she doesn’t eat them without asking me or grandpa first. Now I’ve started taking her hunting with me. I don’t shoot anything in front of her, I just take her for a walk in the woods dressed in orange and carrying a rifle, to get used to the idea. (She does not carry a rifle, I do.) I believe that we can change the world simply by what we teach our children. I believe that we can put a huge dent in racism, sexism, and all other hate, simply by connecting our children to nature, and showing them that we all have a place in the world. And, that nature can give us everything that we need.