Let’s connect – a sense of place and belonging
Everything has a story to tell, whether it’s a person, object or a place. But it’s the connection between people and their memories/stories that make places special, unique and gives us a sense of belonging.
For some, we are instantly taken back to our childhood. Maybe somewhere we loved exploring, a place that makes us feel at home or maybe a place where you feel close and connected to significant people in your lives. When we develop a sense of place, we develop a story of our lives, a narrative.
Over the course of this year I have been continuing to deepen my understanding of developing a “sense of place” and have found myself musing on imagining a world where everyone was emotionally connected to the place where they lived.
I have often wondered what that may look and feel like. In my mind this would be a place which would be cherished, cared for, communities would come together and have a heightened sense of responsibility and stewardship. This is the type of world I long to live in… don’t you?
Why is developing a sense of place so important?
There are many outcomes we could list that occur when we feel emotionally secure in a place. For children, if they feel comfortable in a place then they feel able to explore, play, take risks and become directors of their learning. This takes time to nurture.
Here are a few other reasons for why developing a sense of place is so important:
- Developing a deeper connection and sense of belonging
- Feeling grounded, comfortable and familiar
- Connecting to our past and a growing personal identity
- Developing an appreciation of natural resources
- We become inspired to care and protect our local spaces for the future
- Developing empathy
Out of all the terribly sad and heart-breaking moments that COVID 19 has brought on us in 2020, on reflection there has been one positive reaction, or maybe should I say interaction, because people connected. With time through enforced lockdown, people connected not only with each other but with the land around them.
Daily walks became longed for and valued and people began to notice. They saw seasons change from spring into summer and they noticed the pace of the wildlife around them… people stopped, were still, observed and listened. A pause in time has given nature a chance… people have begun to see its value.
So with this all in mind, what better time to start the seed of change.
If we want to live in a world where the physical landscape becomes part of a person’s self-identity, people belong and feel connected, then we need to put more emphasis on building a sense of place into our youngest children’s experiences.
For a sense of place and belonging doesn’t happen overnight. It is a perfect blend of many moments that develop a personal history of memories and through shared experiences these will evoke feelings and connect children with their place. A sense of place can’t be pre-packaged or bought. It takes time, reflection and thought.
Forest Kindergarten: Local Nature Play
The approach “Forest Kindergarten: Local Nature Play” is an ideal approach which is built around giving children regular experiences in nature, visiting their local greenspace and exploring through playful experiences and stimulating all the senses.
Circle of Life Rediscovery offers a 2-day training course that supports this approach. Throughout the two-day training practitioners can:
- Reflect on current practice
- Develop ideas for how routines and rituals in nature can support a growing sense of place
- Explore ideas of nature play
- Understand some different approaches to support pedagogy
The course takes place in East Sussex on 22nd October & 4th November 2020, find out more here. Please see below for our short introductory webinar based on the course.
This course can also be delivered at your setting to a minimum of 15 people.
Taking the time to build local nature play into your day to day routines and exploring a local park, wood or field will undoubtedly allow your learners to feel more connected to nature and to themselves.
Over time, adults and children will develop a growing respect and gratitude for their local place which in turn encourages children to want to protect and become guardians of their special place for the future.
In addition, it has also been noted by practitioners that by increasing positive time in nature with young children generated a “ripple effect.” This “ripple effect” involved their children encouraging the wider family to explore their special places thereby forming greater emotional attachment to the land which was passed across generations.
This is the dream isn’t it? To live in a world where people connect, value and appreciate our planet and each other and nurture well-being so that we grow together as a community.
So maybe, just maybe now is the time to act and focus on really belonging to our world. Not just watching our world from a window, app or television screen but by being outside, by being present in the moment, breathing in the air, feeling the sun on our face and plunging our fingers into the soil.
By Louise Hack.