The Lord God Made Them All
As a forest school gets uprooted, Kaiya Huleatt explains how children and nature need each other.
After this half-term a Forest Kindergarten that has been operating since 2014 in a National Trust forest in Kent will not be able to return to the woods. This news saddened me as I believe nature is the best teacher and that God wants children and all of us to appreciate His creation which points to His greatness: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” (Romans 1:20).
No doubt the National Trust has its reasons to not renew the nursery’s license to operate. Apparently, ancient trees were “put under stress as a result of increased use of the area”, but as one parent pointed out: “I find it difficult to believe that a group of 15 or so preschoolers has done much, if any, damage to the woodland which extends to over 200 acres, only a fraction of which is used by the kindergarten group.”
If children are dangerous for the ecosystems of trees, I’m sorry for the 40-foot oaks that grew behind our house. When I was about eight my older brother and I decided to check out the rook nests nestled in their very top branches. After several tries (I was more cautious than my brother) we made it to the top and got a look at the rook eggs. I don’t think the trees were harmed, but the rooks probably suffered some anxiety along with my mother who came out of the house and saw her children 40 feet in the air. When she calmly told us to come down, and then warned us not to go so high again, we were quick to remind her of her favorite quote: “Life is a risk, the more alive you are, the more the risk.”
I was privileged to grow up in a corner of rural East Sussex where my family spent countless hours out in God’s creation – hiking, searching for wildlife, or cooking dinner over a fire. I can personally attest to the educational benefits of time spent in nature from hands on learning, team building, risk management – the list goes on. When at times in my early teens I felt my siblings, parents and the world in general were there simply to make my life miserable, my mum or dad would haul me out of the house for a walk, which would make me crosser still. Yet, invariably the sight of a bluebell smothered sunken lane, fox cub, or wren nest could pull me out of my foul mood and help me realise the world wasn’t all that bad after all.
Not only do children need nature, but nature desperately needs children. As I’m sure the National Trust is aware, getting children involved in nature is the best way to ensure its protection in the future. Those who learn to love God’s creation will become the next generation of environmentalists with a personal appreciation for the environment. This is so important, for we are charged with stewardship of the earth: “The Lord God put the man in the garden of Eden to care for it and work it” (Genesis 2:15).
I trust the Forest School will make every effort to get their children back into some sort of woods somehow, and wish every British child a small corner of nature, for their own sake and the sake of God’s green earth.
Kaiya Huleatt is advocacy volunteer at the Evangelical Alliance.