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Adventures in Remote Learning

By Dean Norman

When our twins were two and half, my wife and I took them canoeing on the Niangua River in the Missouri Ozarks. As we paddled through a quiet pool toward a high rock bluff I shouted “Hello.” An echo said “Hello” to us. The kids wanted to know what an echo was.

“Well,” I said, “an echo is a little animal that lives in holes in cliffs. It will repeat anything you say to it.” Bette and I shouted many different words for the echo to repeat.

David and Susan wanted to know what an echo looks like.

”Nobody has ever seen an echo,” I said. “But an echo must be small because the holes in the cliff are pretty small.”

Two years later we canoed the Current River, and camped opposite a small cliff with a hole about two feet in diameter. I thought an echo might live there, so we shouted “Hello”... and got a strong “Hello” back to us. Then I paddled the kids across the river to see if we could get a close look at the cave. Yes! We climbed up a slope hidden behind some shrubs and found an entrance to the cave. It was a dry cave about ten feet square and four feet high. We crawled in. We looked out of the window and saw Bette at our campsite. We waved and shouted to her.

“Where is the little echo?” Susan asked.

I looked at the dirt floor of the cave and saw small footprints leading from the window to a tiny hole in the rock at the back of the cave.

“The little echo heard us coming up the hill. So he ran and hid in this hole. He won't come out until we go away. Well, anyway, you can see how little he is to get into that hole. Amazing that such a little animal can shout so loud.”

When the kids were five years old, they went to school and some fool teacher told them an echo was only sound waves bouncing off a wall or cliff. Well, that might be important to know if you are an architect designing an auditorium for good acoustics. But the rest of us can enjoy echoes more if we know that they are little friendly animals that like to talk to us.

We took our kids on a lot of remote learning adventures by canoeing lakes and rivers and hiking trails in woods, deserts and mountains. They learned to enjoy and value nature and all its plants and critters. They are passing this information on to another generation. Oh, you can learn the facts in a classroom. But to learn to like nature, and do something to preserve the good wild places for the future...well, you learn it better by remote learning.

So maybe at this time when classroom learning is risky, parents should take the kids outdoors. Remote from the computer screen, too. A time to learn about the natural world. When the virus is under control they can safely go back to classroom learning and catch up on the facts.

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