Hi Anthea & All,
Perhaps an awareness of the natural world depends
on where children grow up, and not just when.
Last week I took a group of 35 primary-age
children, plus some parents and teachers to a local forest for a field
trip. The school was Tottenham - in the west of NSW, and the forest was on
the outskirts of Dubbo in CW NSW. In the forest, we divided up into manageable
groups of three lots of ten-or-so kids, and with the teachers to help, we
covered the topics of 1] woodland birds, 2] micro-animals in dams, and 3] how
forests differ from farms.
I was surprised at the all round awareness and
basic knowledge of 'nature' displayed by these children - most of whom live on
working farms. The issue of 'clearing' was clearly on their minds, and the
head teacher said that this subject had not been discussed at school, but it was
a hot topic in most homes in the area. I talked about a regeneration area, and
asked "What do you think 'regeneration' means?" "It means bringing things
back.", was one of a number of answers that showed a good understanding of not
only the fact of regeneration, but the need for it!
We stood quietly, listening to a Rufous Whistler
doing his stuff, and when I described the unseen singer to the kids, a couple of
them said, "Oh yeah, black and white and ginger, sort of... we saw it just over
there." They listened to birds, looked for birds, and took seriously the message
that many woodland birds in their area could have disappeared by the time
they had grown up. They understood the need for understorey plants and
'untouched' remnants of woodland - when I spoke of this I could see that most of
these children already had an understanding of the needs of small bush
We went for a 'bush wander' and they found a tiny
burrowing frog (I would have missed it), looked with interest at spiders, and
admired small wildflowers. I heard about ducks that have their babies in the
grass around farm dams, and other that nest in tree hollows. Everyone knew
that hollow trees were virtual apartment houses.
I almost felt redundant. Almost.
(The only thing certain in birdwatching is that