This week I was asked by a local newspaper to have my photo taken for an article they were doing about birds. They wanted a group photo of me together with some friends. I had to think hard about whom I was going to ask, as so many of the kids at my school feel and think that is it is uncool to like wildlife.
When you first start at secondary school it is only natural that you just want to fit in and make friends. Everybody forms groups and within these groups there is always hierarchy. Everyone wants to be the tough or hard one, everyone wants to be the popular one, but sadly, having wildlife photography as a hobby is deemed as being uncool and weak. You soon get abandoned or excluded from these groups.
I went to a small village primary school where even in year six, blogging for BBC Wildlife magazine was perceived as cool. Nobody thought of my interest as any different to their own. All of the children were interested in nature and in particular, one teacher was very enthusiastic about nature and integrated it into every lesson.
Mrs Barker’s attitude was this:
“It’s incredibly important that children learn about nature, as one day they will be responsible for it! It’s wonderful when children are inspired by what we do in schools and then build on it themselves, like Alex has done. Hopefully the hard work that teachers all over the country are putting in will help children to feel more connected to nature and interested in what they can do to protect and enjoy it.”
Now, after just one year at secondary school I realise that the older I get, the less my peers are interested in nature, or if they do, they don’t feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with anyone else. Many kids now have different hobbies: music, sports, gaming or getting into a relationship. While I am interested in these things, wildlife and wildlife photography is still my passion. I find that my school doesn’t do much to promote wildlife, even though most other hobbies have clubs to support them including lunchtime and after school football, chess, ICT, drama and even scrabble clubs. However, there is no nature or environmental clubs where I can meet other people with similar interests, or allow the school to promote wildlife and environmental issues. Even in lessons, nature is learnt though books and PowerPoint’s making it appear dull and boring.
Luckily, outside school I get lots of encouragement from social media including Twitter. I have made some good friends whom I share points of views on environmental issues and wildlife photography. Although it seems that many of them also comment on how they hide their hobby from their school friends in fear of being picked on for being ‘different’.
I do not have an answer. Perhaps with more technology such as 3D imaging and hi-tech equipment, wildlife may become ‘sick’. All I know is that if we as a species are going to survive, we need to protect our planet; we need to get more people involved and to learn about nature. Nature studies should be promoted in school and those kids with interests and passion for nature should be encouraged.
Stephen de Vere, Wildlife Cameraman of many popular BBC nature series sent me a few words that sums up why children should be taught about nature in schools.
“Inspiring just one youngster is to me worth infinitely more than influencing a hundred adult minds. I wish I knew how to make the natural world a popular topic across all age groups. It would probably solve the world’s problems in one go!”
My rant for change is for people at school to look at wildlife as something cool, something awesome. But either way, I’m still going to carry on with my hobby of wildlife photography and continue blogging about it.
Alex White, aged 12
Author profile: Alex is a keen amateur wildlife photographer and enthusiastic blogger. His interest started after his parents took him badger watching at aged 3. In May 2013, he set up Appleton Wildlife Diary as a way to record photographs and blog about is local area in Oxfordshire. Alex is passionate about all British Wildlife, especially badgers and hares. He is keen to promote the beauty of the wildlife that can be found on your doorstep.