“This book is about contact,” states the introduction to “What Color Is The Wind? A Feel Guide to the Out-of-Doors for Parents with Young Children,” by veteran Rockland teacher and naturalist Ed Bieber. “[P]arent and child together in nature, making contact with each other, the ground, the sky… and everything in-between.”
With the gesture of a wise friend extending hands to a parent and a child, “What Color Is The Wind?” offers pages of family nature activities that require no more than “…a season (one of four); a yard (back, front, or some other slice of nearby nature; a crack in the pavement will do)… [and] time (2 minutes, 10 minutes, a half hour—again, it’s up to you and your child).”
The question in the book’s title came from a four-year-old student, gazing up into autumn treetops swaying in the breeze. “She’s in her mid-thirties by now, but her words still echo in my mind,” Ed writes. Readers, and also Ed’s friends, family, students, and campers, will often hear him offer one simple guideline for experiencing nature, inspired by years of working with questioning four-year-olds: “Be amazed!”
Autumn: Autumnmobile. “After a rainy fall day (or during one, if it’s not coming down too hard), decorate a fender of your wet car—the whole car, if you’re ambitious—with a leafy mosaic. The wet leaves will stick, at least for a while; the water will act like glue. You don’t even have to wait for a rainy day, for that matter. Just get a bucket of water, let a bunch of leaves soak in it for 10 minutes or so, wet down the car, and start pasting. Be creative with colors and shapes, and the varied sections and curves of your automotive canvas.”
Winter: Shadowy Walks—Night. “The winter moon comes up early… stays up in the sky for a long time, and its bright light allows you to see and travel farther in the night without a flashlight… Walk the moon-shadowed outline of your house, or nearby trees. Visit familiar spots… do they feel the same under the light of the moon?”
Spring: No Mow Zone. “Lay claim to a section of lawn, one square foot… maybe a square yard. Mark it off with stakes so it won’t be mowed or weeded from this day until the snow flies again. Observe as the weeks and months go by. Take photos. Get down on your hands and knees and see what’s there. Conduct tours. Keep a diary. Give your little untrammeled spot a name… Become an ‘expert’ on your piece of the planet.”
Summer: Summer’s Natural Moments. “The daytime, high-pitched shrill of cicada insects from the treetops ‘announcing’ a hot day… the evening calls of the katydids (cousins of the grasshopper and cricket), from what seems like the exact same places where the cicadas were calling during the day… summer sounds like Ray Bradbury’s ‘bee-fried air’… the majestic, powerful, slightly scary but always dramatic approach of a thunderstorm… the first morning of relief after a long siege of hot, humid weather, when there’s a cool breeze, blue sky, high white fair-weather clouds, and you feel like you can breathe again.”
While teachers may find “What Color Is The Wind?” a handy reference, if they want to fill up a science lesson with outdoor activities, at the heart of this book is not a checklist of facts or figures. It’s more in the spirit of a collection of wise verses from which a reader’s creativity may spring.
“It’s for grandparents, of course,” said Ed Bieber, in an interview. “It’s for camp counselors, early childhood educators… But the primary audience is still parents and their children. Bottom line, what I hope for, is that more kids get outside with their parents. For two kinds of connection. With the earth, and with the parent… You always teach what you need to know. Maybe this is part of it.”
“What Color Is The Wind?” is written and designed, first and foremost, to lead you and your child out the door, with a sense of adventure. Whether you decide to plaster the car bumper with leaves, or form a new relationship with your dandelions, is up to you.
“What Color is the Wind? A Feel Guide to the Out-of-Doors for Parents with Young Children,” ISBN 978-0-615-53220-2, 68 pages, $20.00, www.edsbook.org