young naturalists

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“One way to neutralize [a child’s] fascination with the natural world is to cordon it off in parks and zoos, and then to act as if only the parks and zoos were worth seeing.  Persuade a child that a giraffe he sees once every couple of years is really impressive, but the wren on the fence post is only a drab little bird- though he warbles out a love song in the morning, cocking his stubby tail, and is in general one of the bravest and most cheerful of birds. Persuade the child that the Grand Canyon is worth seeing, or Yellowstone National Park, or Mount Rushmore, or the breakers of the ocean on the Florida coast. But ignore the variations of hill and valley, river and pond, bare rock and rich bottom soil, in your own neighborhood.”

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child  by Anthony Esolen

One thing I hope for my children is that they grow to love the world around them — and I mean “around them” quite literally.  I want them to know what a rhinoceros is and be able to identify New Guinea on a map and to imagine what it might be like to live in the rain forest.  But even more important, I want them to know, really know, the place they live in — and to know that this place on the prairie is just as full of fascinating and wonderful creatures as any tropical rain forest or African savanna.

And so this summer we’ve been working on identifying the trees, bugs, birds, flowers, weeds, and all manner of things that we find in our own backyard, or down the street, or at the lake.  We’ve been using two wonderful books as inspiration: The Nature Connection and We Love Nature.  We’ve observed the life stages of boxelder bugs and watched a black swallowtail caterpillar make a chrysalis on the backdoor frame.  We now know more birds than ever (still using our favorite trusty bird guide) and are learning to identify some by their songs using this (so handy to have the Kindle edition on my phone!).  My six year old can tell the difference between a honey locust, an American basswood, and a Russian olive tree (which is something I couldn’t do as a twenty-six year old).  We are all learning together, and I’m just as fascinated by all this new knowledge as the girls.  And nothing makes my heart swell like Adeline saying, “Mom, I heard a cardinal in the tree and then I saw two red admiral butterflies!  What a lucky day!”

 

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3 thoughts on “young naturalists

  1. I was amazed how quickly my kids could pick up bird and plant identification even as 2 year olds, and then I was amazed at how amazed I was. When you think about it, why should it be any harder to tell a cardinal from a robin than it is to tell snoopy from scooby-doo? We’re just trained to think that real things are too advanced for little kids, I guess.

  2. I’ll have to make note of these books for when we return from Taiwan. You can’t see much o the natural world in this big city, but it is amazing how much the find along the sidewalk that fascinates them.

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