Kirsti: On a recent camping trip we discovered dozens of trees covered in cicada moults. You know, those brown crispy near-whole creepy looking insect skeletons that cling to trunks of trees anywhere from the ground up to about 3 metres? Yep, those.
With five kids (ranging in age from 2 to 7) on the trip, there was no doubt that the moults were one of the greatest discoveries of the weekend; the shells caught the kids’ imaginations, and a natural treasure hunt ensued! The result was a whole lunchbox full of moults.
We searched high and low for at least 30 minutes. We looked on big trees and small trees, rough bark and smooth bark. The kids ran from tree to tree and fought to be the one to pick them off. We talked about what they once were; that the noise above us was made by the very insects that once inhabited these shells.
But what if I hadn’t pointed them out? What if we had simply had a lovely lunch, admired the waterfall and gone on our merry way?
One of the kids from the other family asked me how I knew about all these things, and I told them I was a biologist.
“So it’s your job?”
“Yeah, I guess so, but I also just really like knowing about our natural world”
“It’s cool that you know what all these little things are. Not many people would see them because they don’t take the time to look.”
It’s true. Most people miss so many of nature’s most incredible goings ons simply because they don’t look. We overlook tiny worlds by looking where we’re told to look; we neglect details in the everyday, and instead of asking “what’s that?”, we ask “what’s next?”. We rush to our destination without regarding our fellow travellers along the way.
The skill of observation is crucial to any scientific pursuit, but I would also argue that it is vital for experiencing child-like awe in our daily lives.
Look around in a familiar place for new things tomorrow. What do you see?
P.S. If you’ve not noticed, Sarah is a keen observer of beach flora and fauna. Click on her beach tag on the ScienceForLife website and you’ll see! My favourite is her observations of circles on the beach.