Despite my love for nature and sharing it with my son, I am not a biologist (but I am a naturalist). I don’t know every bird I see, although I know more birds than I do plants. What is important is that I am willing to learn (whether or not I think I’ll remember) and am engaged with the natural world.
There are many people however, who do know their birds and plants, and all other organisms on the tree of life. I feel that attending events that allow biologists and naturalists to showcase their knowledge is a crucial part of fostering a love of nature in children.
To a child, learning that someone has devoted their career to studying some aspect of nature can be powerful. I’ve read many times about how scientists we’re inspired to go into science because of someone they encountered as a child. Paleontologists for young dinosaur enthusiasts, astronauts for space-crazed kids. Why not expose a child to all manner of naturalists?
My late grandfather was an amateur naturalist, and I started out in college in biology (and later moved on to history of science). I am not ashamed to admit that I would be delighted to see my son grow up and become a biologist. He can do what he wants when the time comes, but I do not think there is harm in providing a window into the world of people who study nature for a living.
Whether biologists turned environmental educators, biology students at a local university, or professional naturalists, scientists love to share their knowledge and research.
What better way to enhance learning about nature than to get it straight from the minds and hands of those who do it for a living. Follow your local nature parks and nature organizations through Facebook or email lists, and you will learn about family events that provide the opportunity to have your child meet naturalists and learn from them.
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