What are the main points of "Children in the Woods," written by Barry Lopez?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Barry Lopez, a prize winning American essayist and fiction writer, involves himself in environmental problems.  Lopez, designated as a nature writer, "frequently examines the relationship between human culture and nature."  Having traveled over the world, he chose to live in a rain forest in western Oregon.  According to Lopez, he feels privileged to be surrounded by such wonders of nature.

Written in 1988, Children in the Woods, is told in first person narrative and essay form.  Lopez's use of imagery and descriptions of his experiences charm the reader into thinking he is reading a short story rather than an essay.

Lopez's essay begins with a memory of his childhood: a compliment from an adult.  The adult simply commented to his mother about his intuitiveness.   Realizing its memorable and lasting impression, Lopez applies this to his encounters with children.

Lopez and his wife do not have children of their own.  Surrounded by a beautiful wood near a lake in Oregon, Lopez often takes walks into the woods with family's or friends' children.  Through trial and error, he ascertained how to interest children in the wonders of nature.   Originally, his talking stymied the children in what they wanted to say.  Letting the children ask the questions, he quickly learned to answer only the questions.

His involvement in the nature walks turned into one of guidance: For example, Lopez pointed out the skeleton of a raccoon and allowed the children to respond and examine it.  From these experiences, the writer found that children can easily learn the names of things; however, it is the relationship between features of nature that is most important.  To the author, this is where real learning takes place.  From the skeleton of the raccoon to the other sensory objects found in the woods--all connect and assure man or child that he is part of the world in its wholeness.  Everything has a place.

In the end, the greatest revelation Lopez acquired from the children and nature encounters culminated in this knowledge: through example, the adult should  demonstrate that keen observation of nature and use of the senses is the best way to experience the world.  Be hesitant to speak and let the child learn from his own impressions.


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