Just like any good jazz song, nature has a dynamic bassline that can be easy to miss but sets the tone for all of the action. We can tune into it by having a consistent homebase where we can look, listen, and soak in our surroundings every day. By spending time in our sit spot, we gain a detailed knowledge of the animals, trees, plants, and seasons that allow us to become deeply in tune with the land around us. Likewise, the ecosystem becomes familiar with us, inviting us to participate in its intricate dance.
The best way to get the most out of a sit spot is to keep a journal. Note down and reflect on the information you’ve collected each day, referring to field guides to identify any flora or fauna you might not have recognized. Keep track of the weather and how it affects the behavior of the animals. Soon, you’ll feel like you’re no longer just observing nature - you’re part of it.
There are certain moments in teaching that I live for - times when you really see your students evolving as a result of your time together.
I experienced one such moment when teaching a group of 7-13 year olds in Santa Cruz, California.
Throughout the week, I had been pointing out birds and their behaviors, explaining that they’re good indicators of what’s going on around you. “Birds are always in survival mode”, I told the students. “They do everything with a purpose.” Still, they didn’t seem to appreciate those beautiful creatures the way I did. It took me a while to revere them so deeply, so I told myself it was all good.
One morning, I wake up early and sit on a log between the field and the woods. Around 8am the students start trickling in. First, I hear two brothers approaching from afar, walking and talking loudly. But as soon as they come through the gate, the little one quickly shushes his older sibling.
Here I am, sitting quietly with more than fifty birds at my feet. I do a victory dance in my mind - the kids had switched to hushed tones out of respect for this beautiful moment in nature. Score.
Then, they come and sit next to me, tuning into the bassline of the birds and feeding them for a while. Eventually, the other kids start to show up, all slowing their paces and lowering their voices before joining us on the log. By 8:45am, I have around twenty kids sitting still and silent with me on the log. I look around and think, “Score two for nature”.
But the best is yet to come.
One of the students points out a robin on the fence facing West, away from the feeding birds. Score 3! So I ask the students what they think he’s doing. They’re in agreement that he had seen a predator, perhaps a bear, mountain lion, or a human. Seeing a human could be right, but I have my doubts about the other two. A minute later, we hear a scrub jay alarm coming from the redwoods out West. The kids recognize it. Score 4.
I ask them why they think he might be sounding off, and their answers ranged from pterodactyl to bald eagle or hawk. “So an aerial predator?” I say, and they nod.
Sure enough, a minute later, every bird at our feet evacuates the area with a resounding thump that all of us feel in our chests. The students watch them fly South into the woods, but I tell them, “No, look that way!” pointing North. They turned their heads in the nick of time to see a Cooper’s Hawk about six feet wide swoop right in front of the log, about five feet from the ground. It grabs a junco in its talons right before their very eyes.
Cooper’s Hawks are the stealthiest and most agile aerial hunters, rarely seen by people. I couldn’t have hoped for a more powerful teaching moment, and I knew the kids felt the wonder too, with their jaws dropped, shouting out about how cool it was.
Moments like these are what life is all about.
Erik has such passion for giving back to others to create more possibilities for youth to grow up Nature-Connected. I highly recommend getting involved with his programs and giving yourself and your children a healthy foundation in a balanced relationship with the Earth.
- Rick Berry, 4 Elements Earth Education
Erik’s dedication to and passion for teaching are so strong. His programs are a benefit to all who attend. The quality of his work and commitment to people and their connection to the earth and skills is such a high priority.
- Karen Sherwood, Earthwalk Northwest
My girls and I started doing weekly classes with Erik two years ago, and it has been a favorite time together that we look forward to each week. Whether it is cold and rainy or sunny and warm, my girls can’t wait to go every week, and we benefit from getting out in nature and fresh air. We have gained a better understanding and respect for nature which couldn’t be more needed in today's world. We are so grateful for Making Tracks!
- Jamie Walsh, Client
Making Tracks Earth Education is just what I was looking for to help me and my children learn deeply how to love and connect with nature through games and hands-on experiences. Erik teaches in such a unique and profound way that my family has gained more connection to each other, to ourselves, and to nature through taking his classes. He really makes students think and own their own learning process. We absolutely love this style of learning and everything about Making Tracks.
- Rachel von Niederhausern, Client