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Weekly Challenge for #EnviroEd # 32 – Maligned Species

May 7, 2014

wolf

I was just about to send this challenge this week when I heard about the passing of Farley Mowat.   It is thanks to authors such as him and Ernest Thompson Seton that many maligned creatures are looked upon in a different light.

If you were to take a poll within your class about animals that your students are afraid of I have no doubt that your bar graph charts would likely have vertigo inducing vertical lines with labels like Wolves, Spiders, Bats and Snakes.   It really is not surprising when we consider how we grow up.   Students in our classrooms today, much like ourselves grew up with stories of the Big Bad Wolf.   Little Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs left us thinking that Canis lupus was indeed a blood hunger savage creature.   As for spiders, poor Little Miss Muffet who was scared off her tuffet now wasn’t she?  Bats bring to image vampires.  As for snakes, Kaa the snake was always after Mowgli in Kipling’s classic The Jungle Book and going back as far as the Garden of Eden the Serpent was not something to be trusted.

In the last couple of decades stories have slowly started to come out to allow us to change this attitude.  Charlotte’s Web, Stellaluna and other great books are giving these maligned creatures a second life.

I think we should also consider plants as well.  While we may be itching to remove that poison ivy – what animals depend upon it?  At what point do dandelions stop being a thrill to wish upon before blowing their seeds to the sky?

I often tell my students when visiting the Nature Centre that there is certain language that is considered extremely inappropriate while visiting – those words while including words already banned at school would also include the following …

  • Ewww
  • Yuck
  • Gross (unless talking about a dozen dozen)
  • Disgusting

Or any other word that your friendly thesaurus would place beside any of these words. There is little that bugs me as much as judging a book by its cover.  For instance seeing a young student participating in a pond study glance at a dragonfly nymph and without a second thought turn away and say “gross”.  When I witness this I make that student turn around again and observe it more closely.  Within 30 seconds or so that student will often be laughing out loud watching as the nymph expels air out of its rear end to move through the water.  Cries of “It moves through the water by farting!” tend to draw in their peers quickly.

With a little observation, nothing, in or out of this world is ordinary or plain. And to take a step further still – what character education lessons can be taught around bullying and understanding those that are different from what you learn?

This week give your local maligned species a second look, learn what you can about them and promote what you discover!

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