Did you hear about the James Webb Space Telescope? It is incredible! It is the best telescope humanity has ever built and it cost 10 billion dollars. It sits in outer space far from our planet to get the best view. You can see many new galaxies and solar systems we never knew existed. It is so wonderful to look at the beautiful shapes and colours that we will never be able to see with our naked eye. Doesn’t this make you excited?
Can you remember when you used to get so excited about new discoveries and learning new things? It only takes a few minutes in a Primary classroom to see the little faces light up as they discover a new wonderful concept that we as adults may take for granted.
During the teenage years, this sense of awe dimishes as many young peoples’ attentions start shifting towards social interactions and less interest in learning new things and more time on technology or interacting with friends face-to-face or via Social Media. The longer you can encourage your child to learn and discover new things will empower them to have a wider perspective beyond the ups and downs of social interactions. They can actually start driving their own learning and start expanding their base of knowledge.
I have had the privilege of taking students on many outdoor camps over the years and my favourite moments are when I get to tell a story or to point out a rare plant, animal or majestic tree. I have found that this sense of awe and wonder is not something that humans naturally have but something that needs to be nurtured. Once I have shown them a specific type of tree, they are quick to identify others and to point them out. This is like a gradual opening of their eyes. The previously unknown tree is now visible and something to be excited about. The most wonderful experience is when you hear teenagers with no interest in school trying to remember the Latin names of plants and animals.
The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley (S.Allen, 2018) conducted some fascinating studies into the physical and psychological benefits of a sense of awe. Apparently, a sense of awe can lower inflammation markers in the body, give you excited “goosebumps”, calm you, make you feel more connected to others and the environment as well result in an increase in positive moods and a decrease in materialism.
These are wonderful effects in an ever increasingly materialistic and cynical world. We can nurture this in our young children and teenagers by pointing out and opening their eyes to the spectacular wonders around us. In this way , we take one step closer to steadying our children in an uncertain world and we are giving them one of the tools and perspectives that can protect them against the anxieties and hopelessness that hold so many down.
As a Christian, I believe that this sense of awe and wonder helps us to gain perspective on our smallness in the Universe but the greatness of the Creator who still cares about insignificant creatures like us. This sense of awe enables us to truly worship the One who made us and everything we encounter.
Let’s light up our homes with the positive power of awe and wonder so our children can enjoy the beauty that life holds. The world will show them hardship but we can show them hope!
Bert Kasselman, Head of Senior School