Dr Mark Spencer, who rose to fame after appearing on the BBC’s Museum of Life series, said teachers ‘scream at the sight of insects’ and are ‘frightened of handling soil’.
In an interview with Horticulture Week, the man in charge of the herbariums at the Natural History Museum, said Britain faced a shortage of naturalists in the future just when the country will need experts to deal with the threat of climate change and biodiversity loss.
He blamed the problem on a “lack of teachers who know about the natural world”.
“Even if the Government decided to put natural history on the primary curriculum, how would it do so with teachers who don’t have the basic skills? They are often terrified of the natural world – they scream at the sight of insects and tell the children ‘don’t touch’. The whole point is to engage them, but when people are frightened of handling soil, then we have a problem.”
Okay, biology was not my thrill. The plant parts were all right, but once we got into dissection I literally washed my hands of it. And still couldn’t rid myself of the smell of formaldehyde.
I think it’s unfortunate that teachers would be unwilling to get their hands dirty and really show kids how cool plants and insects are, though. I’ve been an ant fan for decades. I never tired of watching them work and wander around their little paths carrying crap several times larger than they were. Entomology wouldn’t have been a big enough interest to do as a school subject, mind you, but I like ants. I love beetles, too. They’re so bloody cool and varied. That’s part of why I’ve kept that little beetle up on my title for so long. I used to change that part quite frequently, but I just love how that photo turned out. I took it in the pasture at home. I took more great beetle shots this time I was home, too.
What they’re chowing down on is a plant Dad called smart weed. There were hundreds of them in that small slough area of the pasture, but no lack of food for them, either. I think he said he’d never seen those beetles in the area before. Click the pic for a larger version so you can really see how metallic and shimmering blue they are. We used to have other beetles in the yard that also had varied colouring on them, some seemed burgundy, others reflected in the teal and blue, and they all hung out on the Caragana hedges. They haven’t been around for years though. No idea where they all went. Everything goes in cycles, I suppose.
Mom’s the horticulturalist in our family, although Dad’s no slouch either. I learned a lot about plants just from hanging out in the yard with them. Mom had lights set up in the basement for years before she had a greenhouse for transplanting. I never had a problem with dirt-related activities. I was a farm kid – what else would I find to dig into? Dad has a pretty good knowledge of wild plants after so many years in the fields and even he gets stumped by things he finds in the pasture once in a while. With all the rain they got this year, the natural grass has never been greener and so many plants really took advantage of the excess moisture to go insane with growth. He’d never seen his land looking that great before and he’s been on it for 40 years.
I’m reminded, too, of a zany decision to pull words out of dictionaries aimed at school kids in Britian. Many of the words chosen had roots in a country life urban kids wouldn’t need to look up, supposedly. Retarded.
The natural world is so darn nifty and it’s a real shame there are kids who are stuck in school situations where their own teachers can’t get up the nerve to show it off. Will kids get interested enough on their own to do the research out of school? Hard to say. If Spencer’s right, though, the answer will likely be no.