Now that we are into May, my spring fieldtrip season is in full swing. I’m teaching classes on wetlands, wildlife, plants, and ecology every week. It’s a great time to introduce students to the changes in the environment around them as spring slowly drifts into summer. Often it amazes me what things are completely unfamiliar to them, such as willow flowers, crayfish, or salamanders. But it’s also exciting to introduce them to things for the first time that I usually take for granted. Even though these students are with me for only a few short hours out of their entire academic childhood, sometimes it’s enough to open new doorways for them and spur them into a lifelong love of nature.
During my time as a summer camp counselor, I got to introduce my campers to things in addition to wildlife and ecology. Some lessons revolved around basic skills, such as cooking over a campfire, while others taught students to try viewing the world around them in new ways via photography or sketching or team-building games. One thing I always loved doing as a camp counselor was reading my campers bedtime stories. It didn’t matter if they were elementary school students or teenagers in high school. I would read to them in the evenings once everyone else had gone to their respective cabins, sharing stories meant to spark their imaginations and their curiosity.
For younger campers, I kept a collection of short stories and novellas that I loved when I was a child. Some of the stories are no longer common in school libraries or the rare brick-and-mortar bookstore, but a quick Google search will usually bring up copies for sale on Amazon or eBay or any number of used book websites. For my older campers, I often read non-fiction memoirs, a favorite theme being short stories by African game rangers and safari guides. Not only would I introduce my campers to a setting from the other side of the world, but I typically found that these bedtime stories were their first experience with creative non-fiction writings. It opened up a whole new genre of reading for them that had previously been ignored by their more traditional teachers and mentors.
We don’t have to be teaching children or teenagers in order to share something new with another person. No one stops learning or exploring once they hit adulthood unless they choose to live under a rock and remain detached from the world. And as we learn new things and explore previously-undiscovered interests, we build up our ability to share something new with others. While nature and stories are among my favorite things to share with others, maybe you have other interests you wish to share with others. Learn not to take your knowledge for granted and don’t be afraid to delve deep into the topics you’re passionate about when talking to others. Your enthusiasm may help spark an interest in someone else that becomes their own lifelong passion.