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Marty Oakeson
Feb 27, 2018
In Delight in Simple Things
In the opening scene of Les Miserables, the prisoners sing "Look down, look down, there's twenty years to go." I admit I felt that sentiment a bit when I was hiking across the Grand Canyon in May 2015. Early that year, I overheard some of my thirty-something friends discussing an upcoming hike across the Grand Canyon. I had never even laid eyes upon the Grand Canyon, let alone hiked across it. I was intrigued and I surprised myself by asking if I could join their hike. They agreed to allow me but declared they would not haul me out of the bottom of the canyon. The Grand Canyon trail is 23 miles from rim to rim with an elevation change of over 10,000 feet. I hadn't done any significant hiking in my life. I prepared well and I was determined to not be a burden to the group. We departed from the North Rim early in the morning. After about two miles I began to think "There's twenty years to go." I looked down, gritted my teeth, and some 10 hours later, I reached the top of the South Rim. It was a glorious feeling to have accomplished something that I didn't think I had in me. A few days later I was talking with one of the group. He was gushing about how beautiful the Grand Canyon is. It was then that I realized that I had been looking down during my entire crossing. I was so worried about survival that I didn't even notice the grandeur and majesty of the canyon. The skill of observation, or "looking up", is critical not only in enjoying the beauty of the Grand Canyon, but also in finding joy in daily life. In addition, the skill of observation is critical to our success in life. A group of college students was given the task of engineering an incubator for the impoverished. Their goal was 1% of the current cost of $20,000. Their original designs required electricity. It wasn't until they traveled to Nepal and observed that 80% of babies were born in homes with no electricity that they changed their vision and were able to succeed in their design. A family with three young boys recently toured our Marbles Farm property. Children are naturally curious and observant. Before long they had discovered a leg from a recently deceased baby deer and a large bird nest that had fallen from a tree. Young Milo looked up and spotted a squirrel scampering from limb to limb in one of the many tall pine trees on the property. One benefit of getting children outside in nature is the motivation to look up and observe. Conversely, time indoors, especially with screens, is usually time spent looking down. Purposeful parents and teachers can take this natural tendency to "look" and turn it into a satisfying learning experience for children. This is one of our main purposes at Marbles Farm. We will encourage and teach the skill of observation. I vowed to return to the Grand Canyon and find the beauty that my co-hiker had observed. In 2016, a friend and I hiked rim-to-rim-to-rim. But this time I looked up. I immersed myself in the experience. Every bend in the trail revealed a new and spectacular vista. To be sure, it was a difficult hike, but I had learned to observe the surroundings and it made all the difference.
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Marty Oakeson
Dec 10, 2017
In What the Experts Say
I love the sense of joy this photo captured. Our family was vacationing in Mexico. We lounged in the pool and watched the ocean waves. It was enchanting. Our son, Andrew, just learned how to dive and was ecstatic. This photo brings back not only memories but also an intense feeling of nostalgia. An article in the Wall Street Journal states that nostalgia is "happy and comforting but also tinged with a sense of loss or sadness about a time that can never be captured again. That longing does more than evoke a warm, fuzzy feeling. Psychologists say that it can inspire us to live fuller lives by bringing into focus the people and experiences that have mattered most to us in the past." Nostalgia is a real sentiment that we long for and cherish. I frequently see posts on Facebook showing photos of friends' childhood, departed loved ones, old vacations, or the quaint town where they used to live. There is even a popular internet trend called "Throwback Thursday" where people post nostalgic photos on social media sites. Scientific research shows that this hearkening back to cozy, warm memories helps people to "value relationships more and to be both more resilient and psychologically healthier. When we're sad, cherished memories make us happier. When we're lonely, they can bring a sense of belonging," says the Wall Street Journal. What will become of the childlike nature adults call upon when they need reminding of the delight found in simple things In the realm of early childhood development, expert Rae Pica believes that beneficial childhood experiences are being pushed aside in favor of academic-oriented curriculums. We have come to believe in our society that if we don't push academics in the early years that our children will somehow fall behind the competition. The result is that children are often stressed and miserable but—perhaps even more importantly—they are missing out on simple and natural childhood experiences that they could otherwise draw upon in later years. Ms. Pica says, "What will become of the childlike nature adults call upon when they need reminding of the delight found in simple things—when they need to bring out the playfulness that makes life worth living." This sounds a lot like losing nostalgia. As parents, we can do much to create future nostalgia by cultivating authentic experiences today. We don't have to go to the beach in Mexico. It can be as simple as baking cookies together or going to the park. Most importantly, it is the feeling that is generated that will be remembered and not necessarily the event. Of course, a photo or a journal entry might be needed to bring back some of the details. At Marbles Farm our mission is to cultivate experiences. Some of these will be inside rolling pie dough, and others will be outside feeding chickens. Some will involve learning letters and others will involve learning observation skills. All will be about delighting in simple things and creating nostalgia to draw upon as an adult. Click here for link to the Wall Street Journal article. Quotes from Rae Pica are from the book "What if Everybody Understood Child Development?"
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Marty Oakeson
Nov 23, 2017
In What the Experts Say
Please read Marjan's story, "The Thanksgiving Giraffe" before continuing. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said this: "In talking with a lot of businesspeople and others who have to ultimately employ individuals, the skills that we have to be preparing kids with are, simply put, in four areas: critical-thinking skills; the ability to collaborate and work with others; the ability to communicate well both orally and in written communications; and then creativity. Students today are not having their needs met to be prepared in those areas." Mrs. Devos also said that 65% of the jobs today's young children will eventually fill have not been created. We "have to think differently about what the role of education and preparation is." Many children in America spent the Tuesday before Thanksgiving making a hand turkey. The teacher created the perfect model then distributed the kit. Students dutifully matched the model and then packed it home where it was taped to the refrigerator. So how does the giraffe experience change the world? The world changes for the better when someone recognizes a problem and then creatively discovers a solution. The giraffe experience teaches children to think critically. They were asked what they loved about Thanksgiving. They thought about it and gave many responses that were not "turkey." Next, they turned their ideas into a presentation. Isn't this the same thing they will be asked to do as college students? The children were excited about the project. Some came back from recess early to finish. Why? For many reasons, but one of which is that they were unencumbered by a teacher's expectation. The children didn't fear failure. They were free to express themselves and exercise creativity without limits. Finally, the children explained their project. This process builds oral communication skills. Kids put together sentences that combine to transfer an idea from their heads to the mind of another person. Every child had a story, and the teacher was anxious to hear it. Perhaps most important in this exchange was the trust and emotional connection between teacher and student. Our "giraffe" stories are sensitive and highly personal representations of our inner feelings. Any mocking or minimizing of these experiences would be devastating to the creative process. Accepting and encouraging these stories creates a bond between teller and listener. We can only hope that Leo will be encouraged to create more Thanksgiving giraffes throughout his schooling. If he is, then the world will indeed be changed when one day he invents something none of us turkeys have ever thought of.
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