It is a cruel fact. The more plugged-in we are, the more we disconnect from our environment.
We require our five senses to experience the world around us: our ability to see, hear, touch, smell and taste. Electronic devices monopolizes to a large extent our visual and auditory capacity. There have been several incidences of people seriously injuring themselves or even dying as a result of being distracted while texting, phoning or listening to music with headphones (Levy, 2016).
Albeit various physical injuries are serious consequences, there is an even more sinister side-effect to feelings of disconnectedness. A person may experience disorientation and confusion from not being closely connected with the world around them, and these feelings could contribute to generalized anxiety and panic disorders.
In my garden I’ve planted lavender, rosemary, lemon thyme and parsley. These are herbs with strong sensory experiences of taste and smell, and with the added benefit that it can be used in cooking. I have also planted several red cocktail tomato plants.
I encourage my two-year old to walk in the garden and smell and taste the herbs. We water the flowers, look for snails and earth worms and we trial the path of ants.
We lay on the grass with our eyes closed and listen to the sound of the wind and chirping of birds. We also lay on the grass with our eyes open, and look at the formation of clouds and the planes flying overhead.
When I refer to ‘we’ I also include my husband, who is very good at finding shapes in clouds.
We recently harvested a beautiful crop of tomatoes, and you could taste the sunlight with each bite. I started these activities primarily to introduce my child to the world of gardening. However, I found that it helped me relax and find joy again in nature and reconnect with my environment.
How can we encourage sensory learning experiences for ourselves, our children and – most challenging – our online students?