Today we had the 5/6th graders for nature and ecology in the hour just before lunch. “What are we going to do today?” “Can we do alone time again?” “Yeah, where we walk single file and you tap us on the shoulder.” “Yeah, and spread us out so we can’t see each other this time!” [See below for instructions of how we set up alone time two days ago.] Alone time wasn’t on our lesson plan for today, but since one of our primary learning goals is to have the children spend time alone in the woods, Lisa and I were actually very pleased that they asked to do more alone time.
So we said: Sure, we can do alone time again. Do you want to do it as long as half an hour? “Longer!” “Yeah, the whole hour!” Well, we can’t go that long because we have to be at lunch by noon. “OK, but be sure to spread us out so far that we can’t see each other.” Then a worried look: “What if something happens, though?” Well, Lisa and I will spread you out so you can just see each other.
We actually let them go a little longer than thirty minutes. Then I asked what they did with their alone time. Some of them couldn’t quite spend that whole time alone and six of the eleven children wound up hanging out with a nearby child: “We built a fort together,” said one pair. Of the ones who spent the whole time alone, some spent time just looking at what was around them: “I wound up in exactly the same spot as the last time, so I finished looking at the things I started looking at last time we had alone time.” One or two just sat and enjoyed being quiet: “I just sat there on the ground and didn’t really do anything.” I mentioned that being alone in the outdoors is one of my spiritual practices (just so they would know that it can be a legitimate spiritual practice).
Later today, one of the girls in that group made a point of stopping me and saying that she really liked being alone in the woods. Don’t let anyone tell you that kids today only want to play video games.
Alone time (with a group of children)
Give these instructions before beginning: “We’re all going to keep walking single file along the trail. One at a time, the Sweep will indicate to each child that he/she is to sit down in the trail, until everyone is spread out along the trail. Then we’ll all sit in silence of a time. When the time is up, the Sweep will start walking slowly, slowly, and gradually we’ll rejoin in a single file line again.” Sweep circles back around to be at rear of line again. Have children sit in silence for one to five minutes (depending on age and group chemistry). Older children can spread out quite far. Younger children will be more comfortable if they are closer together.