Eco-literacy

Mushroom Girl - Illustration by Ellen Dubreuil

Deep Entanglements: Children and Fungi

By John Hornstein | My mother was happiest when foraging for mushrooms. Being an immigrant from Germany, she had difficulty adjusting to life in rural Maine. Foraging became a way for her to stay connected to her childhood. It also connected her to something more primal, the natural world. As a child tagging along on her foraging adventures, I sensed the importance of those connections, and it made me happy. She has been gone a number of years, and now I am the one foraging for mushrooms, moreso as I age – a way of remaining connected to her, but also a way to connect to nature – so much so that my fascination with mushrooms has become an entanglement – one raising basic questions about who we are as humans and what we need to do for children’s development, questions such as, “What is it about fungi that fascinates and inspires?” and “How can mushrooms help us teach children how nature works?” and “What can fungi tell us about the precarious world we now live in?”

Letting “Mother Nature” be “Just Like Me”: On the Use of Anthropomorphizing

By W. George Scarlett | In E.B. White’s classic children’s book, Charlotte’s Webb, Charlotte, the spider, becomes the kind and smart friend of Wilbur, the pig. Charlotte saves Wilbur from the usual destiny of farm pigs by weaving into her web words praising Wilbur and making him famous among the surrounding humans.  But if that were all there was to the story, though it would appeal to many and maybe even cultivate in children empathy for spiders and pigs, it would stop short of teaching about how nature works and stop short of motivating children to show care for nature.

When Nature Gives You Ticks, Create a Tick Curriculum

By Robin Huntley and David Sobel | Start a conversation about using the natural environment, or taking learning outside, or studying the bobolinks in the meadow, and ticks start crawling through the recesses of school administrators’ and parents’ minds. Ticks and their associated diseases are perceived as a scourge across the northeastern United States, and rightfully so. Lyme disease is no laughing matter. This article describes how a surging tick population on the grounds of a rural Maine school inspired a class of third-graders to engage in a study of ticks, their habitat, and behaviors.

Collecting for Connecting to the Natural World

By Jack Ridge | This is a story about collecting. Not the kind of collecting that clutters our basements and garages because we can’t let go, but the kind of collecting that stimulates life-long curiosity for the natural world. This story is about the natural objects we collect, the ones we look upon with curiosity and wonder. The ones we arrange as a way of understanding how the world operates. In my case, in late childhood, it was about collecting and arranging rocks, minerals, and other things geologic.

Ecological Landscaping: Earth Stewardship for Everyone

By Doug Tallamy | If you live with at least some green around you, chances are you have never thought of space just outside and next to where you live as a wildlife preserve that represents the last opportunity we have for sustaining plants and animals that were once common throughout the U.S.. But that is exactly the role that built landscapes are now playing and will play even more in the near future. If this is news to you, it’s not your fault.

Wood You Believe It? Beaver’s Remarkable Teeth for Building Ecosystems

By James Cassell | Perhaps the most impressive architects of the natural world, beavers are famous for their iconic buck teeth. Using their teeth, these furry engineers build dams to flood and sculpt their environment. In doing so, they not only provide protection and lodging for themselves, they also form stagnant ponds that provide valuable water storage and habitats for a diversity of plants and animal species needed to sustain ecosystems that keep our planet healthy.

Book Review: The Hyena Scientist

Review by Marion Reynolds | Science journalist Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop’s latest addition to the Scientist in the Field series, The Hyena Scientist dispels myths and misunderstandings about the of true nature of the African spotted hyena, profiles the presence of women in science, and tells the story, through anecdotes and examples, of Kay’s decades-long research in the field. The unfairly maligned hyenas resemble dogs, but are more closely related to the mongoose. Hyenas belong to their own family, the Hyenidae.

The Elephant-Human Relations Aid Program: Projects and Empathy for a Neighborhood of Friends

By Osita Achufusi | 415,000. That’s how many African elephants are left in the wild as of 2018, according to the World Wildlife Foundation. While this may seem like a sufficient amount, it’s not. Consider that an estimated 10 million of these gentle giants roamed Africa just a mere 90 years ago and that there was an approximate 111,000 drop in the African elephant population between 2006 and 2016, and suddenly 415,000 sounds dangerously low.

Wonder and Earth Stewardship

By Lisa Sideris | The connection between wonder and children and childlike states is one we often take for granted. Yet wonder is also the province of scientists whose expert knowledge far exceeds that of the average layperson.