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Tales from the Trail

Originally appears in the Fall 2010 issue

Think about the environmentalists that have inspired you. Who are the folks who have informed and motivated a generation of environmental activists? They were the writers who could reach beyond academia and into the living rooms of average folks. Gene Stratton Porter wrote for Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping magazines and her young adult novels inspired Rachel Carson. Rachel Carson created a series of seven minute radio spots on sea life that were wildly popular, long before her Pulitzer Prize winning books. And Aldo Leopold published essays in Outdoor Life all through his career.

Each of these naturalists was inspired by a direct experience with the wild world. They, in turn, were able to connect with their audience in a way that their writing became a bridge to an experiential appreciation for the world around them.

If we as educators are to inspire the next generation we need to help them get their noses out of books, cell phones, and video games and send them out of doors, to see, smell, touch, feel, and experience the wild world, and in turn, use the technology of this generation as a tool for creating these same kinds of natural connections.

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Brian “Fox” Ellis is a storyteller and naturalist who performs at schools and conferences throughout North America. He is the author of Learning from the Land: Teaching Ecology Through Stories and Activities, and most recently, Charles Darwin and His Revolutionary Idea. He lives in Peoria, Illinois.