This summer I had the honor and pleasure of working with YWCA camp children at one of our BCAS Butterfly Gardens and also with other great young folks through our junior naturalist program at DeKorte Park. As much as these great kids enjoyed their time outdoors it was I who relished the experience even more. Their innocent curiosity, sense of wonder and delight of discovery did my heart good and reminded me never to forget why I loved nature to begin with.
I especially delighted in my young students’ inquiries and comments into why things in nature are the way they are and how they might be able to help. As I spoke to them about raptors they asked if birds eat other birds and does this make them cannibals? And if owls sometimes eat the heads of their prey does that make them zombies? Very important questions that I failed to provide an adequate answer for by the way.
The day I spoke about invasive plants some kids suggested building a dome over the butterfly garden with a small hole just to let the butterflies in and keep the invasives out . And when I talked about the serious problems with Monarch Butterflies a cute little girl missing her front teeth looked up at me puzzled and said “ I don’t get it, just tell everyone to plant milked!” An issue with a very simple solution to this smart young person.
Every insect, plant and bird opened a world of wonder to my little scholars. You can see it on their faces, hear it in their voices and feel it in their excitement. Their curiosity and passion for our natural world is undeniable and an unforgettable delight for me to witness.
We come into this world as much a part of nature as any bird or tree, our bond with the nature arounds us is who we are as humans. But whether our young people keep that connection to the natural world may well depend on every nature lover.
To say our young people are our future is a vast understatement, especially when it comes to protecting our environment in the years ahead. As all these great young people showed me this summer, there is an important yearning for kids to watch a butterfly feed on a flower, see a Hummingbird hover through the garden or just do nothing else than to get their hands dirty in the backyard.
Things that may have been common in past generations are now few and far between for many young people. But unless they can experience the wonderful things of nature how will we expect them to save it when the time comes?
At Bergen County Audubon we have worked with several schools for many years that continue to do an incredible job introducing their students to nature. But our schools cannot do it alone and we cannot afford to pass the burden to our education system. In the end it will be the responsibility of every nature lover to pass their knowledge,understanding and passion on to the next generation of young people that yearn to have that same connection to the birds and butterflies that we do.
If our kids don’t experience the nature firsthand how can we expect them in the future to protect endangered species? If they fail to see a bird migrate, a bumble pollinate or a Monarch Butterfly come to rest on a flower, how will they understand what needs to be done about climate change ?
Or for that matter why we need to breath clean air and drink clean water? In the end it is up to us to volunteer at schools, nature centers, scouting groups churches and wherever we can to pass on our knowledge and love for nature to the many young people that the crave to learn about the outdoors the same way you did . It is the most important thing that we can do.