Children Care Deeply About Protecting Nature - Let's Nurture This
We pulled into our driveway from an outing and there was a mother with her 7-or 8-year-old daughter at our front door. The little girl had some sort of bug cage in her hand and the mom started excitedly talking about a lizard they saw in my nature center kiosk. I looked at the plastic cage contraption with a few leaves in it and thought they were asking if they could capture one of the anoles who live in my rewilded yard. Apparently some people keep them as "pets". Horrified, I blurted out that my yard is a safe place for wildlife and all the creatures who are in it need to stay there. The mother quickly clarified that the lizard darted in the nature center kiosk when they opened the door, and they thought it was trapped in there. The cage was to somehow prompt it to leave. I apologized for the misunderstanding and thanked them for going home, making a plan, and coming back in an attempt to “save” the lizard. The girl looked like she was so concerned about the lizard’s plight that she might cry.
I had to stop for a second to appreciate that this duo had even stopped by to check out my nature center kiosk in the first place. A couple years ago I created it by adding shelves to a little library box and thought it might serve to get the word out about protecting nature where we live. In addition to native plant seed packets there are eight flyers with topics like attracting birds with native plants and protecting our native bees. There are also small, labeled pots of native plant slips in a box next to the kiosk. Most people in my neat and tidy upscale neighborhood cross the street instead of walking by my rewilded yard. Their own landscape offers little to nothing in the way of habitat for wildlife and there seems to be no evidence that anyone knows or cares about the alarming insect and bird decline or increasing lack of plant biodiversity. Rarely does anyone even look at much less open the kiosk when they walk by.
I explained to the mother and daughter that the lizard is called a green anole, it's the only anole native to North America, and it will change color to a brown shade depending on light and temperature. I reassured them that it will be able to get out of the nature center if we just leave the door open. While we were walking towards the kiosk to check out the situation, my daughter who was visiting for the day had already gone over, opened the door, and taken the anole out of the kiosk. It was resting on her arm. She’s some sort of a wildlife whisperer and this wasn’t the first anole she’s wrangled.
My daughter gently place the anole on the girl's shoulder where it ran down to her hand and jumped off into my front yard. The girl was delighted by the interaction then became a little crestfallen about not being able to “save” the anole as she watched it disappear. I pointed out to her that we were doing the right thing to let the anole go free where he/she was meant to live.
I told the girl my yard is a nature sanctuary and if she looked around the yard whenever she walked by, she might see more anoles in addition to baby birds, hummingbirds, tree frogs, butterflies, caterpillars, beautiful moths, rare bumblebees, chipmunks, squirrels, bunnies, other critters who might be living or visiting.
I lent the mother Leslie Inman’s book Your Yard IS Nature to read with her daughter to help them attract nature to their own yard. I asked them to return it to the nature center so others could borrow it.
I’m touched by the sincere connection and protective concern this family feels for nature and encouraged that there are probably other children nearby who just need their interest in protecting nature nurtered.
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