Debra Lambrecht, Founder, Caulbridge Education | November 7, 2017
Tracking is the science and art of observing animal tracks and other signs for the purpose of gaining understanding of the landscape, along with the systems that make up the environment. The skilled tracker is able to observe their surroundings, discern clues, re-create what transpired, and make predictions about what might have happened.
Observation skills are at the core of problem solving, in that one must first identify the problem and all its components before finding solutions that make sense. This skill transfers over to a student’s ability to read a situation, notice the obvious and more subtle signs, and then develop conclusions based on those observations.
On a recent Wilderness Day, trekking through a dry creek bed, our students came upon fallen trees that created a natural dam in the riverbed where they discovered “ball heaven!” There were basketballs, soccer balls, kick balls and tennis balls, each was dirty and worn. The K-1 students decided this must be the place old balls go when they die. An obvious first assumption, yet with a bit of guided inquiry they concluded that there must be a park or school yard upstream and especially with last years’ record rains, the balls were lost to the rushing waters.
Critical thinking begins with focused attention. Social skills require the ability to read the cues in people’s faces and behaviors. Problem solving begins with the ability to observe a situation and possible solutions. All these skills are inherent in animal tracking and wilderness outings.
Do you want children to develop focus? Teach knife skills. Do you want children to develop problem solving and perseverance? Cross a creek bed that requires traversing berry bushes to get back. Picking sweet blackberries is especially satisfying after a challenging trek!