If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, "the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings."
We believe that the most important component of teaching children to love the earth is to put them in direct and friendly contact with the earth. To that end, the Taproot Programs get kids out into nature. The activities are a mix of focused study, guided exploration, un-structured play, and quiet observation and reflection.
We go outside in all but the harshest weather, and an important goal of the program is to help kids keep themselves safe and comfortable outdoors. We encourage parents to send children with appropriate clothing, and help kids choose (or remember) to wear it.
Activities in all of the programs vary from day to day and are highly dependent on the season, weather, group size, and children's interests, but have included: hiking, sledding, shelter building, atl-atl throwing, bow making, fishing, found nature object art, creek wading, fire making, gold panning, mushroom hunting, vegetable and tree planting, owl pellet dissection, animal tracking, treasure hunting, native species identification, maple tapping, snow shoeing, campfire cooking, and outdoor games.
As a part of the nature-based experience, the Taproot programs place great emphasis on developing “systems thinking,” or seeing that everything in the world functions as a part of an expansive system of connections, and trying to understand as many of those connections as possible. The Taproot experiences and discussions help children learn how they personally fit into the system, and how their actions can have wide-ranging effects. This is especially important in the realm of food – it’s production, transportation, and consumption. Taproot students spend a great deal of time thinking, talking, and learning about food -- visiting local farms, food processing facilities, and grocery stores, visiting with experts within the food system, planting and harvesting fruits and vegetables, foraging for wild edibles, cooking and preserving food, and of course, eating.
Taproot also places great emphasis on civil and kind interaction, effective communication, peaceful problem-solving, and personal responsibility. We expect children in Taproot programs to be polite and considerate of others at all times, especially when conflicts arise. We expect them to learn and use each others' names, and to choose their words carefully to clearly communicate their ideas and desires. The small size of Taproot groups allows Taproot Teachers to provide immediate and gentle guidance in these matters, and firm redirection when necessary.