Get Outside and Observe: Part I

It's not hard to be awe-inspired by the super talented. The comedians that actually make us laugh, writers that make us craving for more, athletes who stop at nothing to win, and the list goes on.

After reading the book, The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, I have come to believe that our "gifted" students had some "help" along the way. The "help" along the way could have come from trials, the sheer grit fostered in their wills, or the great coaching skills of parents, athletic coaches, friends, grandparents, etc.

Coyle's book helped me to see the "gifted" or "not-super-gifted" person very differently. Instead of thinking of talent as something someone is born with, Coyle pointed out (through many examples) that talent is learned. Usually, this talent is learned through working through something in an uncomfortable learning environment. Of course, there are some obvious exceptions, but for the average person, "talent" is attainable.

Since this great revelation, it has allowed me to take on new challenges knowing that with some consistency and grit there will be a level of success. It has also allowed me to truly believe that any of my students have the potential of being "gifted."

Which brings us to the gift of observation. A much needed "talent" when reading the Bible is being able to observe the details, make connections, and ask the right questions of the text. There are the "gifted" students that can make these observations with ease, but as a teacher, I want ALL of my students to engage with text. I want them ALL to be "talented" Bible readers.

So often students are very focused on rushing through an assignment in order to get done, work on other homework, or just distracted by something unrelated to their reading and they can't (no matter how hard they try) engage with the text.

How do we change this? What can we do to foster minds that are less distracted? One way to encourage the "gift" of observation is through Nature Journals. Picture the following: Take your class outside, or assign as a virtual assignment, or bring nature inside the classroom. Leaving phones behind, have each student use a sketch book and pencil. Then have them sketch something in nature. If the students go outside they can choose something like a branch, tree, leaf, bird, sky, flower- really, whatever is in nature.

Once the students get in a routine of focused attention through sketching, they will start making profound connections, fall more in love with God's creation, and naturally become more observant. As they become more observant they will begin to ask questions: I wonder why there is moss on this side of the tree and not the other? Why do the clouds look so different from the day before? What is causing that rabbit to perform that action? Learning to engage their minds with the data that they receive is also a necessary tool while reading the Bible. Teaching our students to silence the noise, pause, listen, and grow will be one of the best "gifts" we can give them today.

After doing some research, I discovered John Muir Laws. His website has a plethora of great information on how to teach the art of Nature Journaling. His website has a wonderful introductory video and even provides resources for educators including a free curriculum guide on how to teach this to our students.

I love the practice of taking a sketchpad outside and making observations, but it doesn't stop there. Our aim is to bless our students with reading the Bible. Part II of this post will focus on some tips on how to move from great observations in nature to great observations in God's Word.

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