Although I credit my early childhood exposure to orchard, field, woods, and creek as the foundation for my understanding of the natural world, I would despair if I thought that same understanding is lost to children who grow up in urban, constructed places, or mostly indoors. My father told of swimming in Wissahickon Creek, a Schuylkill River tributary, and digging garnets out of the Wissahickon schist in Fairmount Park in his childhood in the city of Philadelphia in the 1920’s. The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education is where he might go today to learn about ecosystems in Philadelphia. My mother’s childhood was filled with box turtle sightings and catching gudgeon on the Patapsco River, on land that is now part of Patapsco Valley State Park in Maryland. I wish such experiences for all children.
Many of my students spend limited time in natural areas but their sense of wonder is not diminished when they encounter living organisms in human-constructed environments (indoors)—it just needs to be encouraged as the spider episode in class yesterday demonstrates:
As the children were gathered around listening to a teacher read aloud, one child drew their attention to a tiny spider slowly dropping on its thread in the center of the group. The teacher directed the children to move a bit and kept on reading. The discoverer came to tell me and get a small viewing container. This is what she told another teacher 15 minutes later, “I caught it from a web spinning from the ceiling. It looks like a bee because it has a ring of fur around its neck.” As they were lining up to leave the room I noticed she was empty-handed and I asked what happened to the spider. “I let it go back to its home.” She understood that the room was the spider’s habitat, an interior one.
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