I have been a keen wildlife enthusiast since childhood, had the great fortune to have a best friend whose dad was the zoo superintendent at Paignton Zoo, so we had access after-hours and also knew many of the keepers, so got up close and personal with many more animals. I also kept my live insect collection beside the bed. With Gerald Durrell as my hero, my original career choice was to be a zoologist or an entomologist.
In my 20’s, I ran a Watch group for the Hampshire Wildlife Trust, meeting regularly once a month to introduce children to a love of the outdoors and nature. I took over the County volunteer role for several years until school management duties precluded that.
When out on a walk, knowing the names of things can mean that you look a little closer, so a green sward could be the opportunity to explore a wide range of plants or insects. My garden in France allows further opportunities; last week for example, I was able to see migrating storks flying south-south west and also a black woodpecker, initially identified only by its sound. I’ve red squirrels, a range of fritillary and swallowtail butterflies, hummingbird hawk moths and mole crickets.
There’s a great deal of talk about “Austin’s Butterfly” in terms of drafting, evaluating and redrafting. There’s not much point, unless we also encourage the Austin’s of this world to go out and look for themselves. Equally, there is talk of deeper vocabulary. This needs linkages as in classification, so that the knowledge can be apportioned appropriately.
Exploring an example.
A child views an object in the air. It can be seen to be moving in a definite but slightly strange way, haphazard, due to what appear to be slightly floppy moving appendages. In reply to the regular question “What’s that?”, or simply the pointed finger, the word “butterfly” is brought into the shared vocabulary, although family alternative words can also appear, eg “flutterby”.
Further exposure to such experiences can begin to extend the thinking. Colours, sizes, shapes, food plants can eventually be considered. Differentiating an orange-tip from a cabbage white might involve some level of relatively easy comparison, but compare green veined white and cabbage white, or different fritillaries gets a lot harder.
Interest can be further developed through research. My early “library” was based around the “Observer” series of books, easily available at the local second hand shop. Learning about life cycles, egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, adult as well as alternative associated words, larva, pupa, imago, creates further broadening and deepening.
How would you know if (certain) butterflies were endangered if you didn’t know these things? Food and habitat scarcity and poor weather conditions can impact, with devastating consequences.
Observation is a basic skill. Learning to look closely needs encouragement, an interested other and perhaps, a magnifying glass, through which to look ever closer, enhanced looking.
Re “Austin’s Butterfly”. Look before you draw…