English Expression Lesson

treeclimbing japan johnsan

The fact that mother earth is a great teacher from whom we can learn much is no secret. But this weekend I learned that she could teach many things including the English language.
Two friends and their children spent an entire day with me up in the treetops. Because climbing a tree is serious business, we spent 30 minutes selecting the right tree and 3 hours of practice using safety ropes, harnesses, tree slings and other gear before we were ready to begin. Our tree top destination was 23 meters above the forest floor and it took us about 30 minutes to get everyone up and safely perched at the treetop.

Once everyone was settled, the first thing that popped out of my mouth was, "Hey, do you know the expression 'Up a tree'? That is what we are! It means to be in trouble without an escape or solution. Many animals like bears climb trees for safety and won't descend until the danger leaves." One of the children said that they felt like a bear hiding in a tree and we all burst into a very lively cultural exchange, with a conversation about animal expressions and situations. We discussed the expression 'Busy Beaver' which originated because a beaver's front teeth never stop growing. They must busy themselves cutting down trees and chewing wood in order to wear their teeth down or their teeth would become so big that they would be unable to move their jaws. The time just flew, as we shared English and Japanese expressions that had to do with nature as well as lots of chatter, forest appreciation and bird watching.

Other common expressions we quoted are:

"To squirrel away money." This stems from watching squirrels dart all over the forest gathering nuts and pinecones. They can only carry a precious few on each trip, but by the end of autumn, they will have saved as many as 10,000 nuts for the long winter months.

"Breeding like rabbits." Two rabbits, over a period of three years are capable of producing 13 million descendents.

"To outfox someone." Foxes build many entrances and exits to and from their den to escape getting caught.

I was very enlightened at the fact that the children up in the trees with us that day had actually dropped out of school. They said (and believed), that they "hated learning!"

The love of learning has more to do with presentation than content and what better learning atmosphere than Mother Nature. Currently, all over the world, children are taking to the trees and actually doing just as we did on that fun and enriching Saturday. They study in the trees!

On a trip to Oregon last year I witnessed local Elementary and Junior High Schools holding some classes up in the trees. There is a very active Tree Climbing International Association in America with hundreds of tree climbing members.

In Japan, efforts are being made to revamp the education system. I read that the education ministry is going to try to bring more nature into the classroom.

Rather than spend lots of money on bringing animals and plants indoors, why not funnel those funds and efforts into bringing The Classroom Out Into Nature? Imagine if more schools adopted Mother Earth as a teacher and let nature provide the classrooms. Let's head for the Trees!

P.S. I wrote this article 18 meters in the air in a large Japanese Oak behind my home.