Monday, August 26, 2013
Wild Kids: Creating the Next Generation of Explorers and Environmental Advocates
When you are a kid everything is big; cars, buildings, people and the size of the world itself is unfathomable. Our curiosity, compassion and dreams are also massive and as adults we should hold onto those traits for as long as we can.
I cherish my time working with kids and teaching them about sharks and shark conservation. During their formidable years it is crucial to give them facts and the skills the ask questions about the world around them. They are bombarded with media each day either on the Internet or television and a lot of it provides incorrect information. Megalodon is not swimming around and sharks are not man-eating monsters. Just because you see it on TV does not mean it is real. Shame on companies who produce content, knowing full well people are susceptible to believing the hype and hysteria. That being said there is a still a lot of great programming out there and we need to encourage people, kids included, to steer their attention toward it.
We recently had to opportunity to work with the Kratt Brothers while they were filming an episode of their PBS morning show,Wild Kratts. Together Chris and Martin highlight the weird and wonderful creatures of the animal kingdom in real life and as their adventure loving cartoon alter egos. Watching the guys interact with the natural world was a great experience. They do not turn it “on” for the camera, but genuinely love nature and love sharing it with others. Their excitement is contagious and is something every child should be exposed to. Nature is cool. Animals are weird, interesting, gross and remarkable all on their own without CGI or a plot to take over mankind.
During most of my school visits I talk to students about media and the bad reputation sharks get. We talk about movies like, Sharknado or Shark Night 3D and what they think about them. I encourage them to ask questions and be good junior scientists. Just because they are young does not mean they have to believe everything they see or hear. Sharing factual shark information allows them to have a voice and to speak up when something doesn’t seem right. They are the hope for the future of our oceans and we need to arm them with facts and reality, not Hollywood monster myths.
The world of shark conservation can be brutally frustrating, but working with kids always breathes new inspiration into my fight to keep pushing onward, no matter how discouraging present obstacles may be.It always reminds me of Pandora's box. Terrible things were let into the world, but hope was there and children are the hope for the future of our oceans. I recently received this note from a high school friend whose son catalyzed me giving a shark talk at my elementary school Alma mater. To me this is hope, inspiration, drive, passion, compassion and a reason to fight for animals that do not have a voice. We are their voice.
So, cute little story I thought you would like. Dylan had to choose Story Land or the Boston Aquarium for his summer trip. He very quickly decided it was way cooler to visit his shark buddies, of course! We arrived to find that they have an area to touch baby sharks. Long story short they were resting all day then his magical moment came! They moved just enough that he could "pet" them! He tells me beaming ear-to-ear “I waited my WHOLE life for that! And he didn't bite me mom! But there are no such thing as shark attacks anyway, just shark accidents!” Thought you would like that he hopes to work with you one day. Maybe you can hire him on 10 years!
My heart was overflowing with happiness. I have been burning the candle at both ends getting ready to launch a new website and non-profit and this is just the caffeine for the soul I needed!
The very best thing we can do for children is to get them off the couch and outside to experience the incredible world around them. No matter where you live there are things to see and animals to observe. From ants to elephants, every creature has its place and offers something to get excited about. We must teach our children the importance of respecting and caring for the ecosystems of the world and all the magnificent creatures that inhabit them. And if the kids are on the couch we must make sure they are watching programs that encourage them to explore, observe and love the great outdoors.