Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hands-on science

Snake we saw on a Naturalist Club field trip

There are two main trains of thought in the world of naturalists. The first groups subscribes to the notion that nature should be respected and viewed from a distance, with minimal interference. This group comprises about 98% of the naturalist movement. The smaller group, is comprised of the remaining three or four percent of us who are not good at math and less than good at keeping our hands off of nature.

I have been an ardent supporter of the idea that if you want people to become interested in a cause it has to be something that they can see, taste, touch, hear and smell. If you want a kid to get interested in nature - let him or her catch a mouse, pet a snake, or scoop up a jar of tadpoles. Yes, you have to do it respectfully, but you still have to do it.

The "hands-off" attitude to nature will only ensure that the kid turns towards the X-Box or PlayStation for their recreational fix, instead of getting plugged-into nature.

While I don't advocate the wholesale removal of wildlife from the surrounding environs, I think our laws could be lightened up a little to allow people to maintain small terrariums that they could then use to study wildlife and to develop a bond  with nature.

Who would be more passionate and understanding of the need for wetlands than a kid who has raised a salamander or a frog?

When we were children we often had a terrarium with local specimens. We would feed and study these animals, and when we grew tired of collecting the worms, ant eggs, grubs or mice that they required we would return them back to where we had got them. As it stands now, you can't have an ant farm without a permit. That is just wrong.

I think its time the naturalist movement took a look at our laws and brought a more common sense approach to legislation and brought in some laws that would encourage kids to poke, probe and study nature. It will be these children that grow into the naturalists of tomorrow.

Redwinged blackbird protecting its territory

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