“I envision taking a group of students outside and having them sit with their eyes closed in a natural space (this could be a forest, a beach, a field) and have them listen to excerpts from Three Days to See by Helen Keller. She makes the point that she is amazed at what seeing people fail to notice, and that if she had the opportunity to see she would take in the visual aspects of all the things she has noticed by smell and touch. I would pause periodically and ask the students to listen to the world around them. Once we were done reading, I would have students pair up for safety and have them take turns walking blindfolded and exploring through sound, smell and touch. Then they would have the opportunity to switch, and to look at what they found - maybe things they have seen a hundred times - and really notice them. This could be tied in to a writing or drawing activity, but it doesn't have to be, as it's really more about asking kids to make a connection to nature in a way that they are not used to.” -- Katie St. Laurent
Although I provided a link to the article earlier, here is a quote from the text that illustrates how powerful the words of this blind woman might be to an audience who needs help connecting with nature.
Excerpt from Three Days to See
"Now and then I have tested my seeing friends to discover what they see. Recently I was visited by a very good friend who had just returned from a long walk in the woods, and I asked her what she had observed. "Nothing in particular," she replied. I might have been incredulous had I not been accustomed to such responses, for long ago I became convinced that the seeing see little.
How was it possible, I asked myself, to walk for an hour through the woods and see nothing worthy of note? I who cannot see find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch. I feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf. I pass my hands lovingly about the smooth skin of a silver birch, or the rough, shaggy bark of a pine. In spring I touch the branches of trees hopefully in search of a bud, the first sign of awakening Nature after her winter's sleep. I feel the delightful, velvety texture of a flower, and discover its remarkable convolutions; and something of the miracle of Nature is revealed to me. Occasionally, if I am very fortunate, I place my hand gently on a small tree and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song. I am delighted to have the cool waters of a brook rush through my open fingers. To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug. To me the pageant of seasons is a thrilling and unending drama, the action of which streams through my finger tips.
At times my heart cries out with longing to see all these things. If I can get so much pleasure from mere touch, how much more beauty must be revealed by sight. Yet, those who have eyes apparently see little. The panorama of color and action which fills the world is taken for granted. It is human, perhaps, to appreciate little that which we have and to long for that which we have not, but it is a great pity that in the world of light the gift of sight is used only as a mere convenience rather than as a means of adding fullness to life.” Excerpt from Three Days to See by Helen Keller, 1933
Katie was motivated to come up with this activity after reading about a nature game called Blind Walks, from Joseph Cornell’s book Sharing Nature with Children.
Helen Keller wrote Three Days to See many decades ago before young people had so many competing pursuits for their attention. I think she would be pleased if her words resulted in a letting go of digital devices and tight scheduling (if only for a few moments) to take in nature with all one’s senses.