I recently spent the morning with a group of budding naturalists. There were 18 children ages 9-13 taking part in a Junior Master Naturalist day camp program. Our topic was birds and birding. Wow! They were quite eager to learn.
Each child had a copy of Backyard Birds (part of the Peterson Field Guides for Young Naturalists) and a pair of binoculars. After learning about their books and binoculars, we hit the birding trail. What a fabulous time of exploring with our ears and eyes.
We heard and saw the Gray Catbird ‘meowing’ in the thicket. American Goldfinches flew overhead calling out their favorite snack food; ‘potato-chip’. The Eastern Towhee was in the woods telling us to ‘drink-your-tea-he-he.’ The all-blue Indigo Bunting was politely singing his lunch request, ‘pizza-pizza cheese-cheese please-please thank you-thank you.’
We got to see the sparkling red gorget of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird while he perched in the open taking a break from all his foraging and territory protection.
And as many birding hikes are not all about the birds, one of the sharp-eyed, curious kids spotted a fawn quietly bedded down two feet off the trail in extremely dense brush.
All in all, a most successful learning endeavor.
Many people begin sharing their love of nature in their own backyard. Master Naturalist programs for adults and youth are taking that love to a whole new level. These programs are designed to bring together natural resource specialists with learners to foster an understanding of local plants, water, soils and wildlife, and promote volunteer service in local communities. Just do a ‘master naturalist’ Internet search to see if there are programs in your area.
How are you inspiring the next generation to learn about nature?