Children & The World of Nature

With adult example and guidance, ELLA and her brother DANIEL are developing an early interest in the natural environment and its creatures.

SO OFTEN IT IS SAID that we must preserve the natural environment and wild creatures of the earth, to pass on to our children. But it seems only rarely that a related concern is mentioned: that the next generation will still have the enthusiasm, concern and determination needed, not only to accept, but in their turn value, care and protect.

Today there are, for children, far more competing interests and activities. An ever smaller proportion of children live in rural or outback areas, closer to a more natural natural environment. Most are now surrounded by the suburban environment of bricks and asphalt, neatly tended but artificial gardens. Their experience of birds is limited to the few species that survive in suburbia, and native mammals no longer exist. Competing activities.....organized sport, the passive enticements of computer games and television, also compete for attention. If as adults they remain isolated from nature, they may never care for the environemt that we would like to pass down.

But when young children do come into contact with birds and other animals, their interest is often intense, and their knowledge of the subject can be most impressive. Much depends upon guidance from an adult who is prepared to invest some time encouraging such interest, usually parents, or a teacher.

If this interest can be encouraged by taking the child somewhere to natural bushland, a nearby national park, or further afield on holidays, athrough farmland areas and patches of bush of outer suburbs,this will give the opportunity to encounter new bird species.

Of tremendous value are the clubs and special interest groups, if within reasonable distance: branches of Birds Australia are established in many Australian cities, and there are field naturalist clubs which have a wider range of interst across both fauna and flora.

These groups conduct excursions to places of greatest interest for birds and other natural attractions. These range from half-day and full day visits, for closer sites, to the long weekend campouts at more distant locations. Usually the adult members are only too willing to help children, and their parents if new to thse activities, to find, identifyand learnmore about the widlife of those places.

A strong interest developed early can help though the sometimes troubled teenage years. Not all children can excel at competitive sport, but need outdoor activity. An interest in birds and other wildlife, especially through Birds Australia and similar groups, can be the foundation for a lifelong interest and participation.



BOOKS, from school libraries, or received as gifts from adults, can be a focus for a child's interest. I have received numerous letters and emails from children, especially the 8 to 14 age group, who have my Field Guide to Australian Birds, and write with tremendous enthusiasm about birds they have seen, places visited, or about their pets. Children often read a book through again and again, even one intended for adult use.When enthusiastic, they learn quickly, and often soon understandimore than we would have expected for their age. One child, for example, although owning a guide, often borrows that same guide from the school library to study at school. Typically of chidren, areas of interest become an intense passion, which may be the foundation for an enduring interest.

There is a great need to attract more children into the bird and other nature clubs (along with their parents), for it is often these children who develop a strong interest, perhaps leading to a career in science, or at least a lifelong enthusiasm for the natural environment. It will be with these children, as adults, that the future of the world's natural environment will rest. The concern of the present adult generations, to pass on as much of the natural environment, with a viable rural environment, and a stable wildlife population, will be of little use unless there is an understanding and enthusiasm among those who will have to take up the enjoyment, and the responsibility, for the next term.

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