The Envi-edu is something I’ve been dealing with for couple of years.
The aim of providing such education is clear – to show how important protecting of high biodiversity is (or at least it’s my aim). How to do that in world full of technologies, devices and virtual realms which successfully suck us in? There is nothing more and nothing less than get back to the past and use the same methods that were used not so long ago…
- Observe. Make them use their eyes!
It’s somewhat incredible how low the education became… As a guide working in the botanical garden I can tell You – children, students, youths and adults do not observe their surroundings, the environment, etc. I have an impression that they expect me, their guide, to point with finger every single element of the tour… Tree A, tree B, tree C, shrub A, perennial A, shrub B… And there’s nothing more! No birds, no buzzing insects visiting the flowers, no ants crossing the route. For real, it is something scary for me how the ability of observation has decreased recently.
When I ask kids to look at some flowers, I also ask them to observe who do visit them, what color are they, do they have some dots, spots, stripes. Then I can say that some flowers can have petals with signaling parts making insects “know” where to find food (pollen).
What I find challenging is dealing with youths. They often ignore requests to look at plants, they are usually not interested in plants. I think that not so many people are aware how difficult is to show the world of plants and not bore the youths.
- Touching, touching, touching…
One of the most crucial things in teaching nature and raising understanding of the natural world. The enormous advantage of touching versus watching in TV is the physical contact. You can feel the scultpure, hairs, you can squeeze, pet… I think it cannot be and never will be replaced by 7D, 8D, 17D technology 😉 Why not let the kids to plant some plants and then let them observe the growth? Or why not let them take care of their plants? I don’t only work in the Botanical Garden. I also visit kindergartens and schools with alive insects, mainly exotic ones. I often allow to take them on hands or just to touch them. But only if someone wants to! You musn’t force anyone to do so, otherwise it will take an opposite effect of your efforts.
- Smelling is important too!
We enjoy smelling lovely smelling flowers. That and bright colors correspond to the common sense of estethics. However, there are probably countless odors in nature which may be interesting from various points of view.
Among my favourites there are the dragon lily (Dracunculus vulgaris) and the voodoo lily (Typhonium venosum). These easy to grow bulb-plants produce fantastic inflorescences. However, when the female flowers are ready to be pollinated, some parts of the inflorescence emit particular volatiles resembling an odor of decaying meat. It attracts flies and beetles which may be used in some quaint ways by different species of the Araceae family, to which the dragon and voodoo lilies belong. Of course, reactions of kids and others smelling them are various, nonetheless they are usually disgusted. And this is a trigger for me to start a short novel about the diversity and role of the pollinating animals, especially insects.
There is much more to write and tell, but let us end for now and leave many other issues for the other time 😉