Splash into your senses
I like to walk home in the dark.
It is a short walk across a field and through the woods from my cousin’s home, but I feel like my senses are amplified for that short time.
Sometimes I just stop and take it all in. The stars seem brighter, the fields glow in the moonlight, and deer sometimes snack under the pear tree.
I smell honeysuckle, ripened apples, or freshly mown grass.
Animals scuttling through the dead leaves catch my attention, as do the calls of birds out hunting.
The dewy grass reaches over the edge of my sandals.
The air is often so humid and sweet I can almost taste it. When the “scupplins” (scuppernongs) are ripe, I’ll pop a few in my mouth.
With each passing week, the sights, sounds and smells change.
How does being in nature amplify our senses, or encourage us to use all of our senses rather than just a few?
In “Last Child in the Woods” author Richard Louv discusses this phenomenon in relation to children, and how children not exposed to nature are affected negatively later in life.
He suggests that while years ago many youth grew up playing and working outdoors, today we are electrified.
I am no different; most nights my windows are closed and I hear the air conditioner running, instead of the crickets’ song filling the air over the sound of the attic fan when I grew up.
I spend a lot of time in front of the computer and other electronics.
At night, many of us have to strain to see the stars over the bright lights flooded into our skies. While living in Columbus, I could barely see the stars at all most nights.
Most of us are not going to give up air conditioning or go back to working a field, but I think it is important for parents and educators to consider ways to regularly reclaim the use of our senses and those of the children we teach.
On Wednesday, I was pleased when families braved the wet weather for a day of messy science fun on the square.
They listened to hissing cockroaches with a professor from Georgia Perimeter College.
We tasted the sugary sweet “edible aquifer” from Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful, while learning about that sweet, pure underground water source. Brave youth felt the scales of a snake from the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center. Fingers felt the gooey putty formed when borax is mixed with glue.
Bare toes felt the polymer quicksand as they attempted to cross the tub of cornstarch and water without sinking. Feet and ankles felt the pull as they tried to step out of the quicksand too quickly.
Eyes admired the flowers a 4-H’er planted in soil mixed with hydrogel polymers to aid in water conservation.
Hands were dipped in soapy, sudsy liquid in attempts to make square bubbles, reflecting the many colors of the rainbow.
Eyes darted to the sky as cola and Mentos exploded into the air.
It did not matter how young or old you were or what field you worked in — everyone had a chance to explore their senses through science at 4-H National Youth Science Day.
How it could happen to rain on the day we were out to teach science and water conservation, I could not figure.
Perhaps it happened for a reason, though, because it seems we were able to use even more of our senses as we explored more than prepared science experiments.
Each organization participating put a lot of time, effort and money into preparing beautiful displays they had to leave packed away.
Most adults, presenters and parents alike, probably wished they were in a warm, dry office for once.
At the end of the day, I realized my poncho was doing more to protect my car seat from wet clothes than to protect me from the rain.
I nearly stopped a few 4-H’ers from jumping into a particularly large puddle on the square, then realized they were already soaked through anyway.
Besides, how better can we explore our senses and nature than to run through the rain or make a spectacular splash in the puddles?
Got goo?: Alyssa McDaniel, a 10-year-old Newton County resident, gazes at the slime she created from a combination of Borax and glue during 4-H National Youth Science Day held on the Covington Square Wednesday.