My nature scavenger hunt with Invermere's Little Badgers
Recently my colleague, Michael Curnes, made a presentation during Crazy Hair Day at Harry Anderson Elementary School in Richmond, British Columbia. The students at the school had raised funds for multiple charities, including the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). They raised $8.20 for NCC but they did not give their money away lightly. They had questions; tough ones.
One student asked, "If you had a billion dollars, would you save a species from going extinct or stop global warming?" Another asked, "If you found an injured duck, would you take it to the vet or let nature take its course?" As Michael said, "They renewed my faith in the next generation of conservationists."
Student engagement at Harry Anderson Elementary School prompted me to think about doing something with youth closer to my home in Invermere, British Columbia. More than a decade ago, I attended a presentation by Robert Bateman during the annual Wings Over the Rockies Bird Festival. He stressed that children must know and love the natural world around them if we expect their generation to commit to conservation.
That message has stayed with me. Mr. Bateman believed that we should be teaching bird identification in school, the same way that multiplication tables are taught. Children can tell the difference between super heroes, dinosaurs and Lego characters...Certainly they can learn the difference between the birds and plants around them. I myself remember, clearly, my world changing around me when I realized that a duck is not just a duck and a tree is not just a tree. It was amazing. What a gift to pass on to youth.
With that in mind, I ventured to take the children of the Little Badgers Early Learning Centre on a plant scavenger hunt. I did not make it easy. I expected the kids to find junegrass amid the Kentucky bluegrass and smooth brome. They had to find shaggy fleabane hiding in the dandelions and other daisies.
Of course, they were fantastic and did what they needed to do with enthusiasm (children will do almost anything for a sticker!). Even if one of the Little Badger remembers what cut-leaved anemone looks like or that not all grasses are the same, it will have been a success. I like to think that their worldview changed, just a little.
Our activity may have decimated the local population of shaggy fleabane. The next lesson may have to be about responsible collecting. I will go back, if they will have me. Next time I will expect them to know the difference between slender wheatgrass and bluebunch wheatgrass.
“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” ~ Baba Dioum, 1968