I am cross-posting here a blog entry that I wrote for my Environmental Writing Course today. If you have the time or inclination, please visit our class blog!
Walking last night with my husband and son, my ears perked up to the sound of birds singing, chirping, warbling: sounds I had been missing since the long winter came down. With my ears engaged, my other senses started to perk up, too. My nose scented the freshness of daffodils popping up in yellow, social clumps. And, who doesn’t recognize the stench of the assaulting bradford pear? I peeled off my sweatshirt, enjoying the crispness of a transitional-season evening, and realized, pleased with the turn of events, that it was 6 pm and still light outside.
The light enabled me to take a closer look around. Small, tiny blooms, popped up everywhere. Redbuds and cherry trees and daffodils– the early, loud, exuberant first heralds of the Springtime–had awakened the more reluctant winter sleepers. Small, hard buds on the dogwood trees, azalea blossoms- still shut tight in their shells-starting to peek through the foliage, and blueberry bushes covered with the seeds of their future blossoms.
Spring is here! I wondered if my students had noticed, so today, the first day of Spring, we headed outdoors to photograph “Signs of Spring.” The following pictures show what they found. (all photo credits to my students who are writers on this blog.)
To put this post into the context of climate change and our class, I recently received this email newsletter, prompting me to “Be a Citizen Scientist,”
Have you noticed your favorite flower (or most despised weed) sprouting a little earlier than it used to? Heard frogs calling sooner in the spring over the past few years? These trends could be linked to climate change, and scientists want your help in tracking them. The USA-National Phenology Network (USA-NPN), a group of government, academic, and citizen scientists, has started a new national program that will rely on volunteers to report their observations of flowering, fruiting, and other seasonal events that will help scientists get a more accurate picture of our changing planet.
So I started to wonder, how has my area changed in the last 20, 40, 100 years? Do we even have the data? The The USA-National Phenology Network program mentioned in the email above is soliciting volunteers to help track bloom times of plants. This type of study is called phenology, or “the study of recurring plant and animal life cycle events.” I’ve decided to participate in the study by becoming an observer in the nature around me. All I have to do is go outside 10 minutes a week and record what I see. What better way to enjoy Spring than to become a mindful observer of the nature right outside my door?
As someone who loves the environment, I will tell you that I lost heart a few days ago. When we polled our 8th grade Environmental Writing class about whether they would consider themselves to be “environmentalists,” a large percent of them indicated that they did not identify as environmentalists. Part of me can’t help but wonder if one of the reasons our students don’t consider themselves to be environmentalists is that they’re not in touch with the outdoors. By 8th grade the majority of their classes take place inside, and after school they’re so scheduled with resume-building extra-curriculars and hours of homework, when would they have time to enjoy, appreciate, and build a love of nature?
So students, take this as a challenge. Get outside for at least 1 hour every day. Plant a garden. Whistle back to birds. Follow a trail of ants. Roll in the grass. Watch the clouds. Stomp in a rain puddle. Pluck a blackberry. You may find yourself to be an environmentalist after all. And I bet you’ll enjoy this Spring more than any other.