Turtles Hatch

“The great end in religious instruction, is not to stamp our minds upon the young, but to stir up their own….In a word, the great end is to awaken the soul; to bring understanding, conscience and heart into earnest vigorous action on religious and moral truth, to excite and cherish spiritual life.” 
-William Ellery Channing

turtlesLast night, I had an incredible nature experience -- a once-in-a-lifetime sort of experience that is both life-affirming and humbling. I watched 90 loggerhead turtles hatch and race from their nest to the ocean. As I crouched close to the sand, it struck me that this wonder is a great analogy for education. 

In preparation for the turtle hatching, volunteers had done all they could to help ensure the turtles’ survival. Only one out of every 5,000 sea turtle babies survives. From moving the nest, to erecting a black cloth chute, the volunteers created a structure to help guide the turtles to their survival and healthy adulthood. 

The idea of creating a structure and establishing as much safety as possible struck me. As educators, we create a structure of routines, objectives, and lessons. In religious education, we use the 7 Principles and other Unitarian Universalist doctrine to inform our context. In making decisions about the interventions for the turtles, the volunteers used research and lots of love. So too, we design the lessons, spaces, and experiences for RE with research and love. We hope that the chute that we build will guide as many students as possible, while also allowing enough room for them to travel independently and pursue the route that makes the most sense to them. 

The turtles certainly seemed to do their own thing. Several turtles decided to turn around at various points on their way to the water. They climbed persistently back towards the nest -- and one even got back in! Some moved so quickly they were hard to see, while others seemed to dawdle. Some seemed to travel together, while others moved on their own. Some pushed against the black fabric of the guiding chute. As they approached the ocean, most kept right on course into the water, while others decided to move out onto the beach to explore. 

As we begin this year of religious education together, I hope that we are providing a path for the diverse students and volunteers to feel safe and cared for. My intention is for the lessons, activities, projects, and service events to inspire and bring people together and move us all towards something greater. Within the structure that we are creating, I aspire to leave room for exploration, independence, leadership, differences of opinion, and growth. As William Ellery Channing said, we are hoping to stir up and awaken our students -- then we get to see where they will go. I am looking forward to many incredible shared experiences with USNF this year.