Springing real animals into children’s lives

Kids love to see frogs and toads jump at Lakeside Nature Center. But it’s the leap made by the visiting kids that’s more impressive, says Susan Bray, a senior naturalist at the center. In her own words:

•“I’m really a firm believer — and this is what keeps me coming here and doing what I do — that kids really need a connection with nature. It’s called ‘nature deficit disorder’ now. Kids are getting so separated from the natural world.”•“I can’t tell you how many times — with the frogs, with an owl, with a snake — I pull the animal out to show kids and the first question is, ‘Is it real?’ Honestly, it’s scary.”
•“Kids, whether they’re wealthy or not, have their concept of the natural world pinned to things like Disney World or going to see a movie that has animation that is so real they don’t know the difference between real and animated.”
•“Many times I say, ‘Yeah, there’s not a single battery in this animal,’ and I get a lot of chuckles from the parents. But to the kids, this is a real thing they don’t get.”
•“For them to see a live frog actually move, and it’s not something controlled by battery or remote control, is pretty amazing. And, to me, that’s the opening to have a kid understand that there’s a whole bigger world out there that isn’t controlled by people.”
•“That’s what I believe is the importance of my work here on Earth. It’s helping make that connection.”

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