A solo is an activity, which brings one in contact with nature. It is usually done at the end of an educational outing in nature. It is a time to relax with nature by using all your senses. In a solo, you are permitted to release your every day stress. Search for peace, a tranquility that comes by observing your surroundings with your eyes, your nose, your ears, and your fingers. The First Nations people practice their prayers on the ground, which permits them to create a bond with Mother Nature.

A solo can be practiced in a group as long as each individual finds his or her own space and is not disturbed by others. Before each person finds his or her own space, we can read a story, which connects with nature. There is an example below. However, you can also find a short story in a book relating to nature.

After the solo, each person can bring with them a natural but non living object and explain why they chose it. Or, everyone can share the feelings or thoughts that they had during the solo.

To bring a group of students to do a solo, it is useful to bring parents along. Each parent can take care of a small group of students and make sure that they don't wander off. The sharing after the solo can then be done in different groups with the parents and that way each person will have a chance to speak.

A solo can last from 10 to 15 minutes in the beginning. If you bring your students out in nature on a regular basis they will be able to remain longer. A garbage bag becomes useful to sit on and can be reused.

Here is a list of things that can be done during a solo :

- Sit there and do nothing
- Note your first impressions of the surroundings
- Let yourself be attracted by a natural object and observe it using touch, smell…Come in contact with it.
- Give a fictitious name to this natural object.
- Try sounds like " pssh…pssh…pssh…" to attract birds.
- Walk barefoot on the soil.
- Listen to the sounds further out, then near you.
- Do something to help a living thing in your surroundings.

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The sound of Snowflakes

(from the book More Teaching Kids to Love the Earth, 1995, by Marina Lachecki & James Kasperson)

Rob was in a windowless room when it started to snow. His attention was focused somewhere in the middle of a conference table, the second of four such tables he would sit at that day. This particular meeting focused on a potential merger of two social service agencies, one of which he represented. The work was intense. His schedule was tight. He had twenty minutes to get to his next meeting, at a location all the way across town. He was in such a hurry when he left the building that he didn't notice the snow falling.

As Rob reached the parking lot, he realized that he was not the only one in a hurry. Three others from the meeting were already leaving. He waved as the last one passed him, then noticed a dim amber glow from the headlights of his car. It had been dark when he left home, but light when he arrived. He had left the headlights on.

He tried to start his car. First it gave a groan and then only a clicking noise. He walked back to the building, called a tow truck, and returned to the car to wait. He brushed two inches of snow off the car, and then walked to the edge of the parking lot. There he cleared the snow off a short post and sat down, facing the nearby freeway. From this spot he could signal to the tow truck as it came down the exit.

The snow fell straight down. Ron noticed the solid whiteness of the fallen snow-the street was white, the parking lot was white, even the sloped roof of a nearby church was white-compared to the broken white pattern of the falling snow.

As a car drove by, he realized the usual noise was muffled. The snow dulled all sounds. As the car drove out of sight he kept listening intently. He wondered if each flake made a sound as it landed on a surface. He listened and heard a silence, soft and full. The soundless arrival of another winter.

As the flakes became larger, Rob began watching them arrive on the ground. Each flake appeared to defy gravity, not falling but floating downward, slowly and purposefully, toward an intentional landing. They landed with a gentle stop. Rob watched as the flakes grew to nearly the size of a quarter.

He tilted his head upward and squinted. He felt as if he were rising, floating upward in a solution of white particles.

He closed his eyes and felt the snow land on his cheeks. First there was a sting and then a bit of wetness. He stuck out his tongue. The snow felt cold and dry against his warm, wet tongue.

Rob remembered that when he was a child he often played in the snow until his pants were frozen stiff. He remembered snowmen and snowball fights. He remembered being snowbound at his cousin's house for three days.

For the first time in days, Rob was feeling happy. The snow was speaking to him. He was listening.

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Other Activities

Purpose: To listen to the earth's many voices as it speaks to us.

Participants: All ages.

Setting: Any spot outdoors that allows a person to safely sit down.

Materials: Paper and a pencil or pen.

How to?: Before going outside each participant should list on the left-hand side of each page the words eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin, mood, and message.

All participants should sit together silently in the same general area. After a few minutes of getting used to the spot, they should focus on each of their senses. What is the earth telling me through my eyes? my nose? my skin? It might be a simple message like, "Go inside it's too cold out here".

As their sensations become clear, ask participants to record them and then to suggest the mood from which the earth is speaking and record the specific message that the earth has for them that day.

When the group gathers again, share the moods and the messages. Are they consistent? Do the observations tell us about the earth or the participant? Repeat this activity on three successive days in the same spot and compare people's perceptions from day to day. Did they hear the same thing? Were they listening to a variety of the earth's many voices?

Other Ideas for Listening to the Earth

1. Take your family or group of friends to a park. Pair off and take turns being blindfolded. Move to several spots as you listen, noting what you hear. Attempt to isolate four or five different sounds. Share the results of your exploration with the rest of the group. Try the same activity in your backyard or in a field or forest. Make a sound test a few times every week.
2. Be an ear detective. Take a portable recorder outside. Record for fifteen minutes, then listen as you play the tape. Do you hear any sounds on the tape that you didn't notice as you were recording? Often, our ears edit out sounds.
3. What season is it? What are the plants and animals doing? What is the mood of the season? Reflect on the season of the year and the seasons of your life.
4. Ask your neighbours about predictable local weather patterns and regional weather lore. Do people say, for instance, "The wind changes every day between 12:30 and 1:00 P.M."; or "If there is a ring around the moon, it will rain within twenty-four hours". Make a list of these predictions for your area and check their accuracy over the course of a year.
5. Set up a home weather station to monitor changes in the weather. Instruments may include an indoor/outdoor thermometer, a rain gauge, a barometer, a weather vane, a wind speed indicator, and a log to record the data.
6. Listen to the music of the earth. While walking through the woods, figure out what birds, animals, or insects make sounds that remind you of strings, horns, drums, or harps.
7. Play the owl ear game. Owls detect their prey with both their eyes and their ears. Form a group of friends. Choose one person to be a mouse and make squeaking sounds. Choose two others to be owl ears. Blindfold both of these individuals, having one stand up and one sit on a chair close by. This positioning simulates the placement of the ears on an owl. Then, with the mouse-person squeaking, have the blindfolded owl-person try to locate the sound.
8. Notice the sounds of the areas through which you travel on a family vacation. List the sounds that you don't hear at home.
9. Be a mystery animal. Arrange a group of children in a circle. Progress around the circle, with each child taking a turn imitating the sound of an animal or bird. Other members of the circle attempt to guess what the animal or bird is.

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Did you know?

Native Americans learned to listen to the earth, not just for protection but to enhance their lives. They spent many hours in the woods, near rivers, and in the mountains observing and listening to the natural world. They listened by noting patterns of weather, animal behavior, and the way the plant world developed. They believed every part of the natural world had a gift for humankind. Each plant had a medicine or food to share. They discovered theses uses by listening to the natural world with all their senses.

Because they intimately knew the behavior of animals, they understood when an animal crossing their path or flying overhead might be a message-bearer. If an animal exhibited unusual behavior, or stopped and looked them straight in the eye, native people believed a message was being given to them by the Great Spirit. To interpret the message, they reflected on the encounter over the next few days or weeks.

Each animal symbolized a certain ideal to be sought or attained: the hawk brought a message of foresight; the eagle, courage; the loon, fidelity; the bear, introspection; the moose, strength; the wolf, guardianship; the beaver, resourcefulness; the sturgeon, depth. By coming to understand the message the animal brought, native people were able to understand their responsibility as creatures of the earth.

This book has many other great ideas on how to use other senses to observe and appreciate the earth along with great ideas of activities that can be done in the classroom to help students take on an action to help the environment.

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