Lifelong Learning for Naturalist Learners

Lisa M. Clark The Lifelong Learner Leave a Comment

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As we have been exploring ways in which we learn differently, we have looked at seven different categories thus far, using Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences as a guide. And when Gardner got started, those were the original seven: interpersonal, intrapersonal, kinesthetic, visual/spatial, verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, and musical. But after these seven were presented, explored, and discussed, two more were added to the list! What does that mean? Two more blog posts! So let’s take a look at a learner who may well be reading this on the back porch of a cabin, enjoying a lovely sunset in the background.

Come learn about naturalist learners.

An “outdoor classroom” would sound like a perfect place to learn for these learners, and not for an easy distraction. Rather, these learners thrive when they can observe and interact with creation and all the wonders it holds.

Gifts of a naturalist learner:

Biology would be popular with many naturalist learners as they study life and how it works in plants, animals, and humans. They have a gift in caring for animals, plants, and the environment (Genesis 1:28).

The great outdoors isn’t the only classroom, however. There is also the laboratory. Learners with naturalist skills also work well with data: gathering, organizing, and analyzing research. Patterns and trends are exciting for these careful observers.

Myths of a naturalist learner:

Because many naturalist learners yearn to be outside, there can be a misconception that these students can’t focus in classrooms or institutional settings. Considering that many of these learners have become biologists, botanists, and other researchers, those with naturalist intelligence can be seen in sterile labs as well as wild terrains.

The culture of the Western world has served these learners poorly in one way in particular: positioning those who love the environment in a false opposition to those who are of faith. Because some popular theories in environmental science (evolution, for example) pose concerns for those who adhere to intelligent design (or, you know, an almighty Creator), scientists who are also Christian are sometimes led to believe that they cannot be both. As Christians, we can counter that myth by affirming that the study of creation can reinforce the wonder of our wonderful God.

Equipping a naturalist learner:

In the classroom, give these students opportunities to explore their world in and out of the school building. Consider your own unique location and point out plants, animals, and rocks that are not found elsewhere. Is there a student with rocks in her pockets? With discernment, help her examine each and possibly even contribute to a class collection.

In the workplace, these learners are often finding ways to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. Whether reducing wasteful packaging or merely encouraging good recycling habits in the workplace, show appreciation for these ideas and find ways to encourage such habits among colleagues.

At home, take walks together and stop when your curious learner takes notice of a new wonder. Instead of keeping a brisk pace, learn from this outdoor student by examining the world together. At home, recall the treasures you found and record them in a discovery log. End with a prayer of thanks to our Father for His world.

In the classroom, remember that these learners like to create order and lists of learning. It’s an interesting balance when a student takes a look at “the wild” and points out pattern and order. Use these opportunities to remind the class that our God is a God of order. Bring in objects from outside, and find ways to categorize them into groups. Make displays of these objects for others to see and enjoy!

In the workplace, this colleague may be hiking along the trails of national parks, observing enzymes, or presenting the latest lily hybrid. Take time to appreciate the efforts made by those who take time to notice the world around us by listening to what they have discovered.

At home, there are plenty of documentaries that can take your learner all over the world, but don’t stay on the couch. Challenge this learner to practice his or her own presentation skills by working with you to create a documentary of your own backyard.

Are you a naturalist learner? What ways do you love to learn? What tips can you offer those who want to learn more about this learning style? What strategies do you use?

I’d love to hear from you as we continue this learning community!


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About the Author

Lisa M. Clark


Lisa M. Clark spends her days reading and writing about God’s love for all people through Jesus Christ. She is a former high school teacher and a current editor for Concordia Publishing House. Her degrees from Concordia University, Nebraska, and the University of Missouri--St. Louis focus on Lutheran doctrine, education, and writing. You can read her latest posts here.

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