I hope you don’t mind that many of my “Notes from the Field” lean towards people and experiences in the field rather than natural happenings…. Or, are those things so different?
I, and most nature educators, spend a great deal of time with school groups. Children feel driven to share with us their stories. In my years of being a naturalist I have heard more stories than I can count, on topic and off, “My grandma has a cat!”
Adults often try to discourage or control the storytelling of children in this setting. They want the children to be reservoirs for the information and experiences provided by the naturalist. I think adults want to use the time I have with children as a mostly one way street of me sending the knowledge to them. And, so we hear again and again from adults, “Hold your stories till the end.”
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If you know me at all, you probably know that I can’t resist sharing my stories. I don’t tell brilliant, well thought-out and animated tales like the masterful Foster Brown (Cleveland Metroparks Historical Interpreter / Naturalist). But, jog my memory of a funny tale, and you’ll hear it. (Did you know that I was once chased by a wild beaver while wearing a beaver costume? I’ll tell you about it sometime).
I love to take some time with children (of all ages) and listen to their stories. I think it’s such an important part of sealing the experience between an educator and a learner. I want to hear about grandma’s cat. And, if there’s not time, I’ll probably just poll the group, “Raise your hand if your grandma has a cat.” I won’t judge you if your child tells me that you hit a snake with the lawn mower or that you got in a fender-bender because there was a spider in your car. I have an amazing ability - one I imagine is shared by many in my profession - to comprehend two or three stories being told simultaneously by 5-year-olds. I want the experience of connecting with nature to be a two way street.
Share with us your stories as you’re inspired. If it’s not a good time for story sharing, we’ll let you know. But, maybe it is a good time. Maybe we want to hear about the time a bird nested on your window sill or that it’s little Nicole’s sister’s birthday. We get that it’s as important to share as it is listen and it’s as important for us to listen as it is for us to share.