Fritz hiked us up into the Flatirons west of Boulder this afternoon to talk about environmental history.

Nice idea. The concept that where you live impacts how you think and act is one that has been around for a while. But getting up a couple of miles into the foothills provided a great venue for talking about how we view nature and how that view can impact current events.

Long story short?

Fritz had us do two activities. The first on the way up the mountain (can the Flatirons / foothills be called mountains?) and the second once we arrived at a shelter along the trail.

During the first activity, he asked us to be quiet and listen to nature. What did we hear? Answers were varied but similar. Wind. Grass brushing against itself. Birds.

But not until we were prompted did we realize that we also heard footsteps of others on the trail and, far off in the distance, ambient noise from Boulder.

Hold that thought.

Later, during the second activity, he asked us to draw nature. It could be anything. After a few minutes, we passed our exceptional artwork around. Fritz asked us to note what we saw. Again, varied responses but similar. Trees. Animals. FIsh. Water. Mountains. Sun. Grass. Rocks.

Then he asked:

How many people did you see in your drawings?

Just one.

The point? When we think of nature, we think of nature devoid of humans. People have always been part of nature but we’ve constructed an artificial view of nature that doesn’t include us.

We went on to discuss a ton of stuff including some nice conversation about the difference between “conservation” and “preservation.” The ton of stuff is important and it does impact policy today. In ANWR, for example.

But as an educator, I just love the way Fritz used the two activities to hook us into the content and provide an entry point to discussion. Nice stuff!

I need to find a way to adapt this to a GPS activity I’m doing with MS teachers next week. How could you adapt it?