Date of Award
Department or Program
Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
David Van Wie
In The Sense of Wonder (1965), acclaimed environmentalist Rachel Carson offers guidance for adults helping children explore nature and cultivate an enduring interest in the outdoors. Fondly drawing upon excursions in coastal Maine with her grandnephew Roger Christie, Carson illustrates the powerful impact of simply accompanying children in nature and letting their curiosity and questioning guide the adventure. Despite her immense knowledge in earth sciences, she made a concerted effort not to share technical vocabulary with Roger, believing that doing so might belittle his joy in their surroundings. Her work has inspired me throughout my career as a fourth grade teacher, and especially while designing an original social studies curriculum about the American national parks system. This memoir consists of essays and reflections about my travels to the Grand Tetons, Acadia, and the Boston Harbor Islands. It is written from the perspective of a traveler enjoying unfamiliar landscapes, but also of a teacher grappling with how to relate their experiences to young students. It depicts moments where my own sense of wonder emerged in these natural spaces, leading me towards deeper understandings of the natural and the human histories in each place. It includes accounts of my teaching, my travels, historical research, and connections with my school curriculum. I also reflect on how my teaching philosophy has shifted since immersing myself in the subject of national parks, and how I continue striving to provide opportunities for childlike wonder to emerge in my classroom. In a time where extreme weather patterns and the detrimental effects of climate change persist in the world, I believe it is more important than ever for young people to develop a relationship with nature. It is my hope that fellow teachers will read this project one day, and that it can inform the outdoor experiences they share with their students.
Hubbard, James A., "Teaching Wonder: Essays and Reflections from the National Parks System" (2023). Dartmouth College Master’s Theses. 80.