When you do this job-the outdoor nature based job-it’s too easy to forget how much you have learned and how much you think you know. Not everyone is an expert and not everyone has had the time, the education, the access to wild spaces or the general privilege to know how to identify their birds, trees or flowers. In reality no one is an expert. The REAL experts are the ones who are most aware of how much they still don’t know.
I believe that it’s our job as outdoor leaders to make it easy for people to say they don’t know what something is. This is how we can work towards being inclusive by understanding that not everyone has the same starting point as us. We all come to the outdoors and to nature by different paths and everyone starts their journey somewhere. Ultimately what all outdoor leaders want is for as many people to love nature like they do. So, it’s also our job to make it easy to ask questions and support people to get to know nature in a way that makes them feel proud when they learn anything new.
The lost words book by Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris, beautifully and lovingly illustrates the nature vocabulary that was removed from the Children’s Oxford dictionary, words that most outdoor leaders and educators would agree are essential to a basic knowledge and understanding of the natural world. There is much anxiety about the loss of nature language, vocabulary, identification and connection to our most common nature sights and experiences in the U.K. Outdoor leaders can take on the challenge of helping to re-acquaint people with “lost” nature knowledge, not just when they are clocked on with those in their groups or their class but anyone anywhere, in all of our communities, offline and online.
We have decided that at the Curious School of the Wild we are going to go back to basics for a while. No question is too small and no identification too obvious. More people are getting out into nature for exercise and for fun with their families. Lockdown has meant that some of our usual family entertainment is unavailable and people report feeling more connected to nature as a result and spending more time than ever outdoors. It’s a perfect time to see what you can spot while on your walks.
We are fans of the nature table and started a #BringBackTheNatureTable campaign. Collecting and bringing nature home in your pocket is the start of nature connection and collection! Identifying what you discover grows much easier with the more you have seen. It’s harder to know what a sycamore leaf is, if you’ve not seen lots of leaves of other shapes too. Just get to know it bit by bit.
We are going to make resources that are easy to use and share, that look at our most common nature treasures. We will not assume that anyone should know them already, we understand it doesn’t work like that for everyone.
We will make video, “nature identification for all” style images, regular posts and give you some ideas on how to get to know nature. You can help by sharing these and by posting your finds and asking us questions. We are not experts, we get it wrong, we make mistakes, we know a tiny bit about a lots of different things but we can try to find out for you if we don’t know.
You can use these #tags to share your nature finds or your nature questions…