Wild Wonder: A Hands-On Creation Care Experience for Children
What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations." Psalm 104: 24
As a child, many of us experienced the unique joy that comes from a bubbling mountain brook, a worm wiggling in the mud, or a pile of leaves stacked tall. With imaginations left to wander, streams quickly became rushing rivers, trees fortresses and castles, the flowers tiny hideaways for fairies and bugs. Perhaps many who have grown wish to look at the world again with childlike wonder, to see the beauty in the smallest and simplest of things.
For Mary Anne Inglis, a member of St. John in the Wilderness, Flat Rock, finding a way to connect this childhood excitement of the world around us with a deeper understanding of faith was vital. Thus, she helped establish the Wild Wonder summer program at St. John, a creation-care based curriculum developed by A Rocha, a "Christian conservation organization engaged in ecological awareness and habitat improvement in the United
States." Driven by her own passion for sustainability and creation care, when Inglis heard about the program, she knew it would be a great fit for the children at St. John.
"My husband is a former congressman from this area and his focus as he left congress was turned towards climate change and keeping the conversation going," Inglis said. "In that context, I traveled with him to English in 2013 and I met Peter and Miranda Harris, who were the founders of A Rocha, and it just became very clear to me that this was a spiritual home for me as far as joining my faith with my environmental concerns. They had just started writing a curriculum [at the time] for what eventually became Wild Wonder. The camp curriculum just grew organically, so after meeting Peter and Miranda I came home and thought, 'this is how I can join the ministry of the church with the ministry of what my husband does!' I really enjoy working with children, so I picked this up and the current youth leaders of the time said yes, so we've been doing it every summer since."
The Wild Wonder curriculum is designed for a 5 day camp for children ages kindergarten to 5th grade, with a focus on connecting with both nature and God. Based off Psalm 104, the curriculum invites children to "delight in God as creator, redeemer, and sustainer of all things by immersing them in the wonders of the created world." With daily activities such as songs, devotions, and nature-study, the Wild Wonder curriculum truly aims to foster and support a sense of curiosity in science while also inviting children to build connections between the world around them and their God who created it.
"I feel like God is always opening the curtain for us to see how he did things through science," Inglis said. "Science is God revealing himself to me, saying, 'look at this, this is how I did it, isn't it soo amazing?' There's no jump for me between the two. Those two threads are so interwoven in the curriculum that you really don't know when you're doing one of the other. It's amazing to think about, how many things we don't know, and as we go along the curtain gets pulled back more and more."
Much of the Wild Wonder curriculum is centered around hands-on experiences, adding a tactile element to ministry that is so deeply ingrained in Creation Care. With activities like soil painting, strawberry DNA extraction, owl pellet dissection and more, children are invited to be active participants in the devotions and stories that accompany the activities, creating a tangible experience that celebrates their curiosity, movement, and excitement. Inglis believes that it is through this celebration of creation and childhood experiences that we can create a generation dedicated to caring for the world around us.
"Marrying faith and science through these hands on activities really shows how fun creation is," Inglis said. "It's just fun, and it's something that we hope that the children will innately walk about knowing that this is something we need to care for because we can love God by loving what he has created and given to us."
Ultimately, Inglis hopes other parishes in the diocese and beyond will find Wild Wonder a unique and exciting way to care for creation and celebrate the children of the church. It is with this celebration, she believes, that we may foster a more empathetic, loving, and caring community of faith.
"We as humans have the responsibility of loving and taking care of that which God has blessed us with," Inglis said. "We are all as God's creation each other's keeper in that way."
To learn more about A Rocha and the Wild Wonder Curriculum, please visit https://arocha.us/wild-wonder