TGSG Note: I am excited to have Adam Jack guest post at TGSG this week. I admire Adam’s knowledge and passion for wildlife, almost as much as his enthusiasm to share these things with his daughter. I encourage you all to become part of the WildObs community, and use the tool to help guide some of your natural adventures, and share them with others.
See ya outside!- The Grass Stain Guru
As adults, many of us appreciate nature and take for granted the pleasure we get from watching a herd of Elk navigate a hillside or a hawk soaring in the air, surveying the land for prey. We recognize these glimpses of wildlife as true gifts — windows on beauty and calm that help keep our modern lives more grounded. We understand that little feels better than unplugging, stepping outside and re-connecting with the real world. The natural world.
But what about children? As I watch my young daughter grow, I see what she naturally connects to and what she doesn’t. I now realize that this gift of a love of nature isn’t always simply inherited. It’s nurture over nature for nature itself, and I need to help her learn to appreciate this gift.
In the beginning, it’s important to simply get outdoors with children. Let them touch, smell, and wander about — exploring at their own pace and delighting in each discovery. Big and small. Using simple terms like bird and animal is fine. The focus should be on fun.
As children age, help them make deeper connections with the natural world — getting to know the unknown. This is also a great opportunity to increase your own knowledge of wildlife, and deepen your personal connection. As with anything, the deeper the understanding — the more personal the experience — the deeper the connection and appreciation will be.
Many of us cannot identify our neighborhood birds, mammals or plants. We might know some, but very few of us know many. Not knowing what a critter is, not even knowing it’s species name can make it more difficult to connect with. As a non-native to these shores, I have experienced this problem first hand. Over the course of a decade I’ve taught myself many of the local species, but many more are still a mystery to me. I want to learn, and I am committed to sharing this quest for knowledge with my daughter.
Sharing Wild Encounters
Some of my happiest outdoor times have been spent with naturalists (on the Isle of Aaron or Scilly Isles, or in Alaska). Together outdoors with a nature guide you examine the world, reveling in wonderfully-satiable curiosity. The naturalist shares their deep knowledge and one’s questions are rewarded with answers. Names are known and fun facts provided. Instant connection!
That “need to know” runs deep, but we can’t all have naturalists with us on all our hikes or rambles. Without personal naturalists, without a backpack or iPhone full of guide books, how are we to learn? Reference materials require interpretation, and (unfortunately) I’ve often convinced myself of an identification only to be told the species isn’t local and that I’d misread the map. What if we could ask a local guide, or tap into cadre of local amateurs and experts? Or, what if they could leave behind a note telling fellow explorers what was there, recently or in real-time; annotating nature with wildlife post-it notes? What if we could affirm an identification with, “well others have seen that here recently,” or “this time of year.”
WildObs.com allows such a virtual leave behind. Annotate your parks and open spaces with wildlife hints and clues (without leaving a scrap of trash). Use your WildObs Observer iPhone or iPod Touch application to record your wildlife encounters for you, but also for others. One exciting encounter shared (a skunk on a hillside, a visiting pine-marten) fosters excitement for future observer explorations. One person’s “everyday” is another person’s “first time,” so don’t underestimate the value of your encounters; share them. Help others, guide others and in reward, be guided yourself. We learn from each other’s encounters, reveling in the stories while absorbing lessons.
Story by story we get closer to wildlife, and richer with nature. Connect with nature, view wildlife and #playoutdoors. Take the time to share these simple joys with the children in your world. Today, and for the rest of their lives, they’ll thank you.
Guest Blogger Bio: A native of England, Adam Jack is a nature enthusiast and long-time tech geek, which is quite a winning combination. He is the creator of WildObs, an innovative, easy-to-use tool to research parks, find species, and guide yourself and others to wildlife. Adam lives with his family in Colorado, and can often be found playing outdoors. Follow Adam on Twitter.