What Is Flow Learning?
As a young naturalist I realized there is a sequence for games and activities that regardless of a group’s age, mood, and culture, always seems to work best. People everywhere respond to this sequence because it is in harmony with deeper aspects of human nature.
This sequence is what I call Flow Learning and it has four stages:
1.) Awaken Enthusiasm
2.) Focus Attention
3.) Offer Direct Experience
4.) Share Inspiration.
In this article, we will focus on the first stage.
Stage One: Awaken Enthusiasm
If people enjoy the beginning of a class, they’ll be mentally with you—and with the goals of the session.
The playful games of this stage create a strong flow of energy and interest. You have achieved the purpose of this stage when you see people come alive. Because people decide within a few minutes whether they like something or not, it’s crucial to get your nature outing off to a good start. By starting with engaging (and often lively) activities, you’re far more likely to win the group’s wholehearted participation with joyful enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is defined as intense and eager enjoyment and interest. Eager interest is the motor that will power your group activities to a worthy outcome.
Imagine sitting in a stationary car and trying to turn the front tires with the steering wheel. The resistance from the parked tires makes them difficult to turn, doesn’t it? However, if you start the engine and drive as little as two miles per hour, it’s easy to guide the rolling tires in the direction you want to go.
Similarly, it’s easier to guide students once they’re in motion. Creating a sense of momentum will enable you to lead your group more dynamically and fruitfully.
Stage One OTTER Games
The Awaken Enthusiasm stage games range from ones that are active and vigorous to those that stimulate and challenge one’s intellectual curiosity. All the while, participants learn intriguing natural history information and develop happy associations with learning about nature.
Human nature often resists anything new. Adults and adolescents can adopt a cool, wait-and-see stance. Age-appropriate Awaken Enthusiasm games are marvelous for winning over and engaging even skeptical groups.
Wild Animal Scramble is an excellent game for encouraging passive or reserved groups to participate fully. This activity is played by pinning a picture of an animal on each person’s back, and then telling them to ask other players questions about themselves in order to find out what animal they are. (You can find Wild Animal Scramble on page 58 of my book Sharing Nature.)
Children usually have lots of energy. Awaken Enthusiasm games gently guide their high energy toward constructive ends. Because the children are having so much fun, these playful games deflect potential discipline problems before they arise.
The Magical Power of the Stage-One Games
The magical power of the first-stage games never cease to amaze me. In 1986 I witnessed this power in Japan: the game worked their spell in spite of the awkwardness of speaking through a timid translator.
After a short introductory talk, I explained the Wild Animal Scramble game. Not knowing what to expect from this gravely courteous group, I was relieved and delighted to see every somber face break into a smile of joyful expectation. I felt the energy level of the group shoot up; the resulting spirit of lively enthusiasm lasted throughout the day.
Joy Should Permeate the Experience
One of Sharing Nature’s core principles is that a sense of joy should permeate the experience. During Stage One of Flowing Learning there’s lots of laughter, gaiety, camaraderie, and experiential learning.
Joyful play connects us with others, arouses curiosity, fosters creativity by stimulating the imagination, and helps us feel fully alive.
Flow Learning’s first phase lays the foundation for its later stages, where a deeper kind of joy is experienced—the joy that comes from connecting with and belonging to the natural world.
Summary: Stage One—AWAKEN ENTHUSIASM
Quality: Playfulness and Alertness
The article above was excerpted from Joseph Cornell’s book Sharing Nature: Nature Awareness Activities for All Ages.
To purchase the book, please click here.