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Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2000

Place to learn

September 28, 2000

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To the editor:

George Gurley believes the SLT was "designed to bisect" the wetlands because developers see it as a big waste. He knows this place is a local treasure. He notes that drought has transformed the receding waters of that small remnant of wild space into a poignant symbol of shrinking habitat and the unslakeable human thirst for taming landscapes.

Just before I read Gurley's column my daughter announced the death of the last three tadpoles she had rescued from a tiny puddle beside the wetlands boardwalk. She spotted hundreds of them fighting for life in a space no larger than a good sized platter, thrashing wildly in their struggles to survive. We at first thought the bubbling mass was a spring. Lydia scooped a few into her brother's bug jar. She kept most of them alive right up until the rains finally came. Although Lydia felt a temporary sense of failure, she learned some important lessons.

I am reminded of a wonderful book I read several years ago: The Geography of Childhood. These beautifully written essays by Gary Paul Nabhan and Stephen Trimble address why kids of all ages need wild places. I am eternally grateful to Luci Tapahanso, the Navajo poet and wife of former Haskell President Bob Martin, for bringing that book to my attention. Like George Gurley, these writers recognize that wild places have as much to teach us, and especially our children, as all the classroom spaces our tax dollars can ever buy.

When we don't have opportunities to meet frogs and other "creepy crawling things" we fail to develop any lasting sense of kinship or respect for them. My children have no dread of spiders or snakes or wasps. They are well on the road to having a healthy respect for whatever they meet in this life that is not familiar. The greatest gift we can give our children is an understanding that they will be much the richer for greeting new things with, as Nabhan say," the whole range of emotions and intelligent responses which any new encounter deserves." That is what true education is about.

Mike Caron,

Lawrence.

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