I didn’t grow up with “fragile” nature: I roamed freely through woods and fields. Captured crayfish and minnows, grasshoppers and caterpillars. Stalked with my BB gun. Built forts. Dammed streams.
It seems I’m in good company. John Muir, as David Sobel recently described in his essay “Look, Don’t Touch!” in Orion, built hand cannons to shoot seagulls.
Sobel asks readers to picture that topic being taught in today’s environmental education classes. But maybe that would be preferable to current offerings.
Environmental education, he argues, has become just plain boring, full of depressing information and dire warnings about our planet’s health. And the idea of fragility extends beyond the classroom: A stay-on-the-trail, don’t touch ethos makes nature about as interesting as a dusty diorama. And so kids get their interactivity from video games.
Sobel writes that such environmental education—as well intentioned as it may be—is failing, and that wild play—where kids can touch and catch and explore—makes lifelong conservationists.
And he has recent survey results to back him up.
Let them catch frogs!
(Image: Crayfish. Credit: Matt Miller/TNC)