This is the second in our series of favorite Imago moments for 2018. Look for Bob’s favorite moment from Music in the Woods, Adrian’s favorite in our new kitchen, Chris’ story of cave adventures from summer camp, and Devin’s giant honeysuckle story from the Honeysuckle Hunt.

Consider all the work it takes to get 30 elementary students to do, well, just about anything. This difficult undertaking is what I was tasked with just a few weeks into my tenure as Imago’s fall outdoor education intern. I would be leading these little rascals (aka Pleasant Ridge Montessori first-third graders) in a sit spot activity, and, despite my initial fears, it turned out to be one of the best things I got to do this year.

Let me set the scene a little further. The naturescape at Pleasant Ridge Montessori is one of the coolest spaces for outdoor education I’ve ever seen. This outdoor classroom is set on a hill with a small wooded area next to a larger open green space that dead ends into a short walking path below the trees. On this late September morning, the goldenrod was in full bloom and the cascading leaves from the trees created tunnels over the walking paths. In short, it’s the perfect space for a sit spot and a really magical place that these students get to interact with on a regular basis. For those who don’t know, a sit spot is a time when you pick a spot, sit down, and take some quiet time to meditate on the awesomeness of nature.

The kids were armed with their journals and pencils, I was armed with a smile and underlying sense of anxiety.

Being quiet and sitting still for fifteen minutes are two of elementary school students’ least favorite things, so I was a bit worried about how I was going to pull this off. The best way to get kids fully involved in a sit spot is by providing them with a nature journal. The journal is a place where they can write about what they see/hear/smell/feel when they are in their sit spot. The journals have places for them to write as well as draw, but they are given the freedom to record whatever inspires them. Chris did a really great write-up on the how-tos and importance of sit spots a few months back if you want some tips of your own.

The kids were armed with their journals and pencils, I was armed with a smile and underlying sense of anxiety. The students started their trek down into the naturescape and I provided them with the reminders that they were to find a sit spot away from other students and that this was an activity where our voices should be off. In my memory, this was a time of chaos. Kids running around, sitting next to their friends, with voices that were certainly not off. In an ideal world, you should give a group of students about a minute to find their spots so that they can have plenty of time to settle in and make their observations. This first time, it probably took them about five minutes. I don’t blame them; I was a new “authority” figure on the scene and they were pushing their limits with me. But, after those first few tumultuous minutes, as they began to settle into their spots, a sense of calm overtook the group. Sure, there were a few whispered reminders about the “voices off” rule, but for the most part these kids who five minutes earlier had been running around and yelling were getting very into their nature journals. I even got to do a sit spot of my own and appreciate the beauty of PRM’s amazing garden.

This is my favorite Imago moment of the year because it made me realize just how much kids love being outside. My favorite part of sit spots is the journal sharing we do afterwards because I love getting a glimpse into nature through a kid’s eye. Everything they write sounds like poetry and their drawings are so fun to see because they look at nature in a totally different way. Nature inspires all of us! My first time leading sit spots taught me not only a lot about the mechanics of the activity itself, but also served as a reminder that part of the reason I love the earth so much is because I was lucky enough to get out there and interact with it as a kid. I got 30 elementary school students to calm down and find meaningful time in nature, but I don’t think it was my authoritarian presence that made that happen. They wanted to do the sit spots because they actually enjoy doing them. Getting kids out in nature makes them love it. I knew this in theory, but seeing it in action was what made this moment so special to me.

Imago is great at creating spaces for people of all ages to appreciate nature not only because it is what sustains life, but also because it’s just so beautiful! I’m so happy to have become a part of the Imago family this year and I can’t wait for the countless other memories I will make as a result of this wonderful organization.