saetbyul: the diamonds in the sky

Do you have a fond memory of visiting the countryside when you were little? I do.

For me, it’s visiting my Auntie Annie and Uncle Don in Royal City, Washington. When I was in 7th grade, my parents bought me a plane ticket to visit my aunt and uncle for a week. They had a 5 acre lot of land, and no other neighbor was in sight for 10 miles. It was just me and the corn fields. During my stay, I learned how to drive a stick shift, 4×4, dirt bike, and a boat.  Did I mention wakeboarding? And, of course, how to shoot a rifle. That was also my first time roasting a hotdog on a spit. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences that I fondly look back on whenever I get excited talking about Outdoor Education.

Even if you you don’t have a memory of visiting the country, you may have a similar experience from a beach trip to Thailand. Yeah… that one… I can picture myself lying on a beach towel on a hot rock in Belle Isle with a book in hand getting beautifully tanned.

Why do we reminisce on these fond memories? Because it made us feel good.  Happy.  Relaxed.  Calm. Exhilarated.  I’d argue that that is what nature provides for us.  

When my students and I walk through the school gates to enter Yeong Heung Forest, we enter into an enchanting forest full of possibilities.  Our school is on the countryside within a city. It’s the secret garden of Suwon. My students and I enjoy finding trees to climb, walking over a log, collecting rocks, sticks, tasting the delicacy that nature has to offer. Yes, we really do eat in the forest.

“But what about the risks?!” gasps a skeptic with raised eyebrows.

What about them?

Children need risk in their play. We tell our students, “Aim for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among stars!” – Les Brown.  As we should.  We’re asking children to dream big, but can we dream big without taking risks? When we take away risks from children, we keep them huddled in a protective bubble and to them, that becomes their reality.  When we are scared, the children will be scared. When we encourage the children to be bold, the children will be bold.  Yes, I’d argue this in teenagers, too.  I was 13 on my Uncle Don’s farm, a city girl arms wide open to let nature in for the first time. It’s because of the opportunity that my uncle provided that I began to flee to the river or forest whenever I needed to recharge.

I’m sure as teacher we have observed in our students that there is an increase in risk taking between childhood to adolescence. Then there is a decrease in risk taking between adolescence to adulthood. There is research that suggests that heightened risk-taking during adolescence is likely to be normative, biologically driven, and, to some extent, inevitable.

As educators, let’s also aim for the moon and take risks by challenging the traditional classroom.  Is this too radical? Just a stroll around the forest where our school conveniently sits? Just because our naked eyes don’t see the stars during the day doesn’t mean that they don’t exist; if we don’t look up and wonder, how will you ever see them sparkle?

Let’s aim for the moon and maybe, just maybe, we’ll land among stars!


6 thoughts on “saetbyul: the diamonds in the sky

Add yours

  1. I agree! We need to have “risk” in our play. Allow children to be children. We try to protect them from everything but we can’t, so we should teach them to be courageous and bold to explore this amazing world around them!


  2. One of the difficulties of teaching history through the years in Korea in an urban setting has been the challenge of moving away from the traditional classroom and having my students interact with nature as they explore historical landscapes. One of my favorite experiences was a unit a colleague and I dubbed ‘the battle for Yunhi Dong.’ We had our students research a battle that took place in the Yunhi Valley and on top of AnSan (An Mountain that sat right behind our school) that involved a U.S. Marine division and North Korean forces. After learning the details of the battle and information about some of the participants we walked the mountain in the very spots where the fighting had taken place. Many of the students had been on that mountain before but few knew what had happened there. The physical act of walking where those soldiers had walked changed their perspective on that moment in history. We followed that up by writing the survivors of that battle from the US Marine unit thanking them for fighting and allowing us to live in a free land. Their responses back to us made the entire experience transformative.


  3. Great blog!
    My fondest memory of exploring in the woods is riding my brand new bike down a few hills with my cousins. There was definitely some risk and adventure:) Sadly, my reaction time was a bit slow one day and I drove my bike straight into a tree, lol. I wasn’t hurt but my bike was done for!!!!


  4. Some of my fondest memories are also the exploration of the world around me. Pevensey castle in East Sussex, England was a wonderful place where I used to run, hide and explore, play make believe, listen to stories and create my own. This unique connection that I had to my own history brought it alive and lit a passion for the past that continues to glow.

    Wonderful writing, huge thanks for posting. It’s so lovely to read someone else’s experiences when they are told from the heart. Best wishes and keep writing. Share with me to feetetweet on twitter as I would love to read more.


  5. I love how you start this blog with a story from your childhood–it immediately had me connecting back to my nature experiences and remembering the times I explored the unknown landscape of a nearby farm as a child. Children need to take risks, define their own boundaries and craft mindsets for different physical, mental and environmental needs. This post reminded me so much of Kristi Mraz’s book Mindset for Learning. Have you read it? It’s all about growth mindset and the stances our kids need to experience, and then practice in order to create self-talk and coach themselves through challenging, novel and daily experiences. I highly recommend it!
    Great job! I can’t wait to see what you share next!


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