Some of my favorite memories from my childhood were interactions with insects and other animals. I remember gathering dozens of tent caterpillars and making houses and mazes for them to follow. I remember filling my mom's sinks in the basement with dozens of toads. Who knew that they would be able to hop out and I would spend the better part of a weekend retrieving them from various places in our house?
I always try to incorporate animals into my work with children. Some children, as you can well imagine, are not always as eager to handle animals, especially insects. So, last week, when we began our PreK study of mealworms, there were a few students who were reluctant to touch them. I have this every year, sometimes students aren't used to animals and can be fearful at first. When this happens, I always let students move at their own pace in becoming gradually accustomed to the experience. One student in particular this year was extremely fearful and chose to sit at a different table so she could be as far away as possible from the insects. This week, with gentle positive encouragement, she came to the table and handled the mealworm many times! The look of joy and wonder on her face was extraordinary and validates everything I have felt about the benefits of children interacting with nature. It's also what makes my job so wonderful; just being able to witness such a transformation is truly a gift.