This past week, I have had the pleasure of staying on a 52,000-tree orange farm in the state of Sao Paulo in Brazil. The farm is quite isolated, and has no means of communication with the “outside world.” In fact, a 14-km dirt road car ride was necessary to get to the farm’s property. The orange tree farm is surrounded by other farms, primarily that of sugar cane. Each day I take my daughters for a hike around the farm and onto adjacent properties for some exercise and to appreciate the wonderful environment we are privileged to be in.
Today’s hike took us to a “reservoir”- three large terraced ponds connected by underground pipes. The reservoir is surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. After crawling under the fence, we found that the top pond was connected to the second pond by a 4î PVC pipe running as a slough into a waterwheel that has some sort of turbine attached to it. I asked the girls what they thought was happening and we discussed how the wheel worked. We weren’t exactly sure that it was powering, but the girls made a few guesses.
Afterwards, we headed to a field of sugar cane and the girls asked if they could taste it. I cut a stalk and cut off the outer husks to expose the cane. They enjoyed sucking on the heart of the cane, and my older daughter Anna commented that it tasted like a lollipop, only that it was made by nature. We meandered back to the villa we were staying in and they reiterated their adventures to my wife as I snuggled into a hammock for a rest.
While we were returning, I began thinking about some of the results of my research which suggests that students that are great, independent, self-directed student inquirers come from environments where parents nurture and promote the creative mind by offering their children unique opportunities to engage in varied different experiences throughout their young lives. I have often heard others talk about problem finding and offer that, in fact, problem finding is not owned by the child but rather the parent. As the subjects in my study demonstrated, parents need almost be absent during problem finding, but rather provide the culture that promotes the childís independence.
After all, perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the sense of wonder in the natural world ñ one that they want to explore and learn about through direct experience and inquiry.