Cultivating Wonder

Did you know that trees feed their babies?

Did you know that banana slugs can slide over sharp rocks without getting hurt?

The more you know about nature, the more you might be amazed.

However, in our nature programs, we've found that the questions are even more exciting than the answers. The more we wonder, the more we develop a finely-honed sense of awe for nature.

At forest school, children discover that questions are everywhere.

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Why does that maple leaf have spots?

Why did the puddle disappear after the rain stopped?

We might know the answers to some of these questions, or we might find out through a process of experimentation and observation.

Sometimes, as we walk through the forest, we discover that some these wonderings are so big that we can't even answer them with words.

I recall walking near a creek once on a very rainy day. I was walking with a group of children, and although we were far above the creek, we could hear it pounding. As we got closer, the sound was so loud that we couldn't even hear ourselves speak.

Why was the creek so loud? The river was so large that it was moving boulders along with it, and they were pounding down through the water, the water and the rocks crashing together.


But this experience was more than a question or an answer. For a moment as we got closer to the crashing sound of the water, the whole group paused. We stopped and we listened and we looked down at the creek, and our bodies shook because the water was pounding so much that the creek shook the ground. We were safely above the water, but we felt like we were in the centre of it because of the noise.

In that moment, we enjoyed the feeling of wonder and awe, and one of the children looked up at me and said in amazement, "It is so loud. Why is it so loud?" We all just smiled together, openmouthed at the noise.


This is my challenge for you:

Go out and find wonder. Find it in something large in your local park - a huge glacial rock, or a pileated woodpecker breaking chunks from a tree.

Ask questions, and try to find answers, but don't worry if they lead to ever larger and more interesting questions. That is the nature of finding out about nature.

Or find wonder in something tiny right next to your home. Take a closer look at the spores of the sword fern and discover how they look like little coiled millipedes. In the spring, observe a bumblebee closely and watch it add pollen to its legs.

While walking, biking and running through natural spaces is invigorating, take some time to intentionally pause and sit for a while in that wonder. Whether you're by yourself enjoying the sound of the rain on the leaves or splashing in a puddle with your children, stop and appreciate all of the connections that are going on around you.

Appreciate them with words and questions, and appreciate them without words as well.

These intentional pauses outdoors can bring wonder to your life and the lives of those around you. Wondering is what makes us learn about the land, and it's what makes us develop a closer emotional relationship to it.

Tricia Edgar is the co-founder and director of Fresh Air Learning, a forest school for children in Metro Vancouver. You can find her at At Fresh Air Learning, we cultivate respect for nature and believe in the importance of connecting children to the land. We value those who have connected with local places before us and acknowledge that our programs take place on unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories.