Many of us naturalists, I believe, have been in love with nature since childhood. My question is this, what did you love doing with nature as a kid? I grew up catching fireflies and grasshoppers, and raising butterflies with those mail-order caterpillar kits. My siblings and I also threw pebbles in the air at night to make the bats swoop down when they mistook them for insects. I’m curious as to what kids do in other countries.
Growing up in a city, there wasnt too much access to a lot of nature areas, however I would frequent the school library for books about animals (especially dinosaurs at the time). Even though I couldnt read all the words I would just look over the pictures and compare them all together, organizing them based on certain attributes and what not, or whichever ones I liked the most. I was also a subscriber of Zoobooks as a kid! I had a mountain of them :)
I also grew up in a city but was lucky enough to be in a city that also has The Bronx Zoo (WWF), NY Botanical Gardens, Museum of Natural History, NY Aquarium etc. I was enrolled in zoo camp as a little one and it definitely fostered a serious respect for all things conservation and research. In addition to visiting these powerhouses of NYC I also spent time looking for bugs (which I then may have been scared of at the time), and learning the names of cultivated plants. I definitely did things I regret now but didn’t know better then, like taking frogs home (and away from their habitats) or picking things I shouldn’t have. I also had a lot of books, maybe a golden guide or two, and relished the photos and/or artwork of anything that had an animal or plant. When I was at my grandmother’s house in Long Island, or at a camp somewhere suburban or rural, I would play outside a fair amount and climb trees, make “paint” out of what I now realize were poke berries, collect various seeds (if I only knew what kind of space my collection would need as an adult!), I liked to take marigolds apart and float the petals in water to see all the disarticulated parts, I also remember enjoying a subscription to Ranger Rick, a kid’s magazine that’s mainly about nature and being the youngest volunteer at the neighborhood plant sale.
We did that too! (USA, North Carolina)
We also did this in the schoolyard at night (Victoria, BC, Canada)
I was also fortunate enough to grow up in the city but close to a park with 76 acres (310,000 m2) of Garry Oak meadows, woodland trails, and undeveloped natural reserve land that flanked the Strait of Georgia with rocky outcrops and sandy shores. Also nearby was a 150ft. floating barge that served as an aquarium where one could descend 15ft below the surface to view sea life. This was later replaced (1969) by Sealand of the Pacific which also held orca, seals, and seabirds - three Orca held here, which were involved in the death of a trainer, were sold to Seaworld - the story for the movie Blackfish started in part in my neighbourhood.
Times were different then and I was free to roam this environment on my own or with friends on foot or by bike (no bikes allowed in the park now). I would catch garter snakes and grasshoppers, try to chase down pheasant, quail and red wing blackbirds, and get surprised by raccoons. On the shore I would explore the tide pools, dig up ghost shrimp at low tide, fish for sculpins and small flatfish, poke at starfish and sea cucumbers, bring home limpets and sea urchins (which would die). I would go to the aquariums and watch the divers interact with octopus and see how high the Orca could jump.
There was a lot of time exploring nature quite freely but today I try to instill a different approach in the young around me. Now I don’t agree with the captivity that I was so fortunate to have witnessed then - it is hypocritical because I am not sure I would have gotten the same exposure and appreciation without those means. I had no idea then how precious life is and how much responsibility we can take to ensure the safe keeping of those organisms around us including not teasing or harassing. I’m sure more than one bat was injured by the size of rocks I threw in the air.
Most of my childhood nature experience was from books. Despite being very interested in wildlife from childhood, I didn’t get seriously into the outdoors until college. As a kid I read a lot of nature books and magazines (Ranger Rick, National Geographic World), devoured facts about animals, and loved biology classes, but only infrequently went camping (and then it was very basic car camping). My mom tells me I used to turn over logs looking for bugs as a kid, which I honestly don’t remember, but I think I do so much more often nowadays!
We’ve never hit a bat, to the best of my knowledge. We always threw them below the bats, so they’d swoop down.