Flow Learning™

Man is not himself only…
He is all that he sees;
all that flows to him from a
thousand sources…
He is the land, the life of its
mountain lines, the reach of its valleys.

-Mary Austin

Flow Learning™ is a simple, yet subtle and powerful system of teaching based on universal principles of awareness and how people learn. It gently guides people, step by step, to deeper, more profound experiences of nature. Flow Learning™ also is very adaptable and can be used to teach any subject matter. Its goal is to give participant an intuitive as well as an intellectual understanding. It has four stages:

I. Awaken Enthusiasm,
II. Focus Attention,
III. Direct Experience, and
IV. Share Inspiration.

The Flow Learning Chart below outlines the educational benefits that each stage offers.


"Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I can move the world." When Archimedes said this he was emphasizing the power of the lever. Simple tools can be some of the most effective. Flow Learning is one such tool for us as educators.

1. Awaken Enthusiasm - People learn if the subject matter is meaningful, useful, fun, or in some way engages their emotions. Time spent in creating an atmosphere of curiosity, amusement, or personal interest is invaluable because once the participants' enthusiasm is engaged, their energy can be focused on the upcoming lesson or experience.

2. Focus Attention - Some participants' minds can be compared to a team of wild horses running out of control. Without concentration no true learning can take place. The activities in this stage challenge the players in fun and creative ways. To successfully meet these "challenges" the players have to concentrate on one of their physical senses. In doing so, they become more calm, observant and receptive to their surroundings.

3. Direct Experience - Once the participants' interest and energy is awakened and focused, the stage is set for deeply experiencing nature. These absorbing, experiential activities have a dramatic impact that involves people directly with nature. These games help us discover a deep, inner sense of belonging and understanding. If people are to develop a love and concern for the earth, they need these direct experiences; otherwise, their knowing remains remote and theoretical and never touches them deeply.

4. Share Inspiration - This stage provides an interesting way for participants to reflect together on what they have learned. In our fast-paced world, participants and teachers alike often rush from one activity to another. Yet taking the time to reflect upon an experience can strengthen and deepen that experience. It need not take long. It can be as simple as responding to a few questions, writing a journal entry, or drawing a picture. Goethe said, "A joy shared is a joy doubled." Giving participants the opportunity to share their experience increases the learning for the entire class. Sharing also brings everyone together and creates an uplifting atmosphere, making it much easier for the teacher to share inspirational ideas and stories.

Stage 1

  • Purpose
    • Awaken Enthusiasm
  • Quality
    • Playfulness & Alertness
  • Benefits
    • Builds on participants' love of play
    • Creates an atmosphere of enthusiasm
    • A dynamic beginning gets everyone saying "Yes!"
    • Develops full alertness, overcomes passivity
    • Creates involvement
    • Gets attention (minimizes discipline problems)
    • Develops rapport with the leader
    • Creates good group dynamics
    • Provides direction and structure
    • Prepares for later, more sensitive activities

    (go to http://www.sharingnature.com/Awaken.html for an online example)

Stage 2

  • Purpose
    • Focus Attention
  • Quality
    • Receptivity
  • Benefits
    • Increases attention span
    • Deepens awareness by focusing attention
    • Positively channels enthusiasm generated in Stage 1
    • Develops observational skills
    • Calms the mind
    • Develops receptivity for more sensitive nature experiences

(go to http://www.sharingnature.com/Focus.html for an online example)

Stage 3

  • Purpose
    • Direct Experience
  • Quality
    • Absorption
  • Benefits
    • People learn best by personal discovery
    • Gives direct, experiential, intuitive understanding
    • Fosters wonder, empathy and love
    • Develops personal commitment to ecological ideals

(go to http://www.sharingnature.com/Direct.html for an online example)

Stage 4

  • Purpose
    • Share Inspiration
  • Quality
    • Idealism
  • Benefits
    • Clarifies and strengthens personal experiences
    • Builds on uplifted mood
    • Introduces inspiring role models
    • Creates group bonding
    • Increases learning for everyone
    • Provides feedback for the leader
    • Leader can share inspiration with a receptive audience

(go to http://www.sharingnature.com/Share.html for an online example)

Flow Learning activities can be organized in a variety of ways to fit almost any theme based outdoor activity like local ecology, birding, tracking etc.

If you would like to know more about Flow Learning, please see the book by Joseph Cornell called, Sharing the Joy of Nature. If you are a classroom teacher, you'll enjoy using the Sharing Nature Teacher Guides, by Bruce and Carol Malnor. This series has many excellent lesson plans for incorporating Flow Learning in the classroom.