Do you let kids collect natural objects?

3:55 p.m. on May 7, 2010 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Do you let kids collect natural objects?"

Here's an interesting article from The Daily Telegraph about letting children collect wildflowers, insects, and fossils. Laws that prevent kids from collecting natural objects, including non-protected ones, deny children the chance to become interested in natural history and to learn taxonomy, one of the key "foundation stones" of science, says Sir David Attenborough. Most hikers know to leave wh...

Full article at

9:21 p.m. on May 8, 2010 (EDT)
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Yes I did when my kids were younger. Now that they are old enough to hunt with me we take a lot of stuff out of the woods for reasons other than their natural curiosity.

Humans are separated from nature only in our minds. If you are not participating in the natural world then you are just a disturbance. Humans have participated in nature as predators for as long as we have existed. We have also participated in nature by collecting it and examining it. To deny such activities is unnatural.

8:15 a.m. on May 9, 2010 (EDT)
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If you are not participating in the natural world then you are just a disturbance.

Love it! One of my new favorite quotes. The only thing I would disagree with is the part about humans being predators for as long as we have existed. The first humans, or hominids were gatherers. A point you touched on near the end of your post. The hunting/predation part came later.

9:31 p.m. on May 9, 2010 (EDT)
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My son is 6 and i just started taking him on "unleashed" hikes this year where I allow him to explore on his own without too much fear that his curiosity will get him into too much trouble. I think as much as us adults can sit back and enjoy the pure scenic beauty of something, children however need to use all their senses to enjoy and recognize that same beauty. Rob them of that opportunity and I think you risk that they won't appreciate and respect the gift that is the outdoors and nature as much as they grow into adults. Now I don't go into the woods and give my son a lighter and hatchet and tell him to go enjoy nature but I absolutely let him poke around in streams, overturn rocks to catch a slimy salamander, widdle on a piece of wood, or throw some rocks in a pond. And on occasion he brings some rocks home, some of them may even have fossils on it but I think this is one of the rare occasions when people come along, remove something from the wild and the world is (or will be) a better place for it.



12:07 a.m. on May 10, 2010 (EDT)
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Interestingly the famous Jurassic fossils of that area are mostly known because of amateur beach combers. I will go out on a limb here and state that MOST important fossil finds are made by amateurs, not by professionals, who mostly come along later after a find has been reported. By denying amateurs the right to look, you also give up those people with interest and skills and TIME to look. Many fossils are destroyed within one year of being exposed to the air. How much material is lost because the law makers would rather it was destroyed than that amateurs collected it is appalling.

I do collect. Because I collect, I know when I have found something deserving of being left intact and would report it.

Jim S

6:01 a.m. on May 10, 2010 (EDT)
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nogods said:

The first humans, or hominids were gatherers.

According to virtually ever anthropological text I’ve ever read, we have been omnivorous since before we were humans. Mind you I am not old enough to provide first person testimony – perhaps OGBO can share his experiences :) – but many primates will eat meat, both as scavengers and as active hunters. According to various theories, ancestral bone structures support the notion we lacked the guts necessary to be solely herbivores, as well as tool evidence from precursor hominid spices indicates active hunting of prey. (they weren’t using spear points to stab fleeing tubers or scrapers to clean tree hides!)

1:58 p.m. on May 14, 2010 (EDT)
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What is the name of that gigantic black beetle the boy in the pic is holding? People here call them stink bugs because of their defense mechanism but that is not correct since they are not hemiptera.

6:26 p.m. on May 16, 2010 (EDT)
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When I was a kid growing up in upper state New York, I always had everything from the woods. I had frogs, toads, turtles,birds (babys that had fallen from the next) I was dissecting aniamls long before we did it in school science class. By then I knew all that stuff. I built terreriums duck taping glass together. I had snakes, insects, raised butterflys and moths, salamanders. I had wild pets like rabbits,fish,crawfish,mice,moles, etc.

Our house was 2 miles from a town of about 1500 people. It was surrounded by woods, orchards,ponds,creeks and Lake Ontario was 4 miles away.

I think that is why I love the outdoors so much now. Even in college and vocational school I had a multitude of wild pets and knew the woods and waterways better than my backyard.

My parents used to go on weekly sunday drives and walk in the woods around a few hundred miles from home. They would find beautiful flowering trees and plants and bring them home to put in our yard. My mother started taking e into the woods and fields when I was a toddler. I went on my first campout in the Catskills with my parents at age 6 months the summer of 1956.

My mother knew where to look for wild plants like mushrooms and puffballs, poke salad, blackberry bushes, etc. She harvested the dandilions from the yard every week before my father mowed and made dandilion wine and we ate the greens like spinach with vinegar.

My grandmother was Mohawk indian. My grandparents were fruit farmers and built all there own farms with building and digging wells. We drank fresh well water everyday and when my dad plumbed the house when I was 12 he piped it into the new kitchen.

We grew 90% of what we ate. So I was introduced to tamed animals along with the wild ones I brought home.

9:07 p.m. on May 16, 2010 (EDT)
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My daughter has always been essentially preternaturally observant. She would notice the most miniscule thing...when she doesn't hike with me even now that she's 19, I wonder what I miss.

She also started collecting those little interesting pocket sized things that I didn't know she had til we got home, and I did the laundry. NO kidding, she has SHELVES full of rocks and her other finds.

Spose it's paid off. She is now an undergrad focusing her efforts to attain her doctorate in geology, emphasis on vulcanology. Guess she's always been the scientist :)

9:23 p.m. on May 16, 2010 (EDT)
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To good..... I mean wet my pants too good for her!

9:22 a.m. on May 20, 2010 (EDT)
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Phew! I was affraid when I saw the article that there would be a whole bunch of folks on here saying not to let kids take anything. I am very glad to see the opposite. I love nature and I want my boys to feel the same way. If allowing them to bring home a rock, or whatever, then I am 100% for it. In fact, I remember one day we were out walking around our nerighborhood and my son had collected so many rocks that as he walked his pants actually fell down! We used that to explain about modesty in all things, even collecting. See, nature is full of lessons! Nature is here for our enjoyment, not our worship. Use it, don't abuse it.

2:04 p.m. on May 24, 2010 (EDT)
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I thought the article was well written, but one - sided. As a science teacher, parent and Venture BSA leader I know the importance of exploring, collecting and playing. I for one collected a few petrified wood pieces in BLM land in Utah several years ago. It was not on NP land and therefore legal. I did limit it to a few small pieces when I could have taken a chunk of fossilized stump that was 12 inches in diameter and 200 pounds. When it comes to animals and other critters I approach the LNT philosphy with a bit of common sense. I think picking up a common insect like a June bug or sowbug or even a praying mantis is not a problem. In fact I have had luck with hatching praying mantis eggs in my yard after transporting some to my home. Mammals, reptiles and amphibians are not so easy to say it's OK to treat as such. There are many recently dead critters that are worth inspecting, too. Our science olympiad team buried a white - tailed deer then inspected it several months later to see how the bugs and bacteria promoted decay. There are many things a kid and even an adults can do without breaking the LNT philsophy and without breaking national park regulations.

On the other hand, there is certainly a time and place for all this nature fun. I am a strong adherant to LNT because it affect how users view the land the next day, week or year. I have seen more degredation to land and plants which in turn affects wildlife. Just be considerate and do what is best for all.

5:05 p.m. on September 27, 2010 (EDT)
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I found it! The gigantic beetle the child in the picture is holding is called a darkling beetle (Coelocnemis sp.) I have wondered what it was called for a long time and just finally figured it out. We used to make leashes from dental floss and keep them as pets. Now I can sleep at night.

5:19 p.m. on September 27, 2010 (EDT)
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I found it! The gigantic beetle the child in the picture is holding is called a darkling beetle (Coelocnemis sp.) I have wondered what it was called for a long time and just finally figured it out. We used to make leashes from dental floss and keep them as pets. Now I can sleep at night.

Wow, you must be really tired by now! I'm glad you'll get some well deserved sleep now. Just kidding.

Thanks for following up with the info. I'm sure there was someone else wondering, just like you.

4:26 a.m. on September 28, 2010 (EDT)
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Of course! My daughter with a ring-necked snake. We kept it in an ice cream container for a day or two then put it back in the garden where we found it.

4:23 p.m. on September 29, 2010 (EDT)
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Part of my sons enjoyment of the outdoors is collecting rocks from other places (of types not common to our home area). I see no problem with it. I myself have picked up an arrow head I found in a creek bed.

6:35 p.m. on September 29, 2010 (EDT)
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OK, As an outdoor educator, I feel it is my duty to chime in here. Please keep in mind that my opinions are my own and not that of the organization for which I work - even thought we agree :-)

I am asked this question, easily, once a week. And while I have conflicting feelings on the subject because I am also a Leave No Trace facilitator, I must admit that times change, and things are NOT the way they were 20 or 30 years ago.

In an age of "Hey, put that down before you hurt yourself" and "Get off there before I get sued" I have to ask myself "What have we done with (to) childhood?" Why have lawmakers, lawyers, and govt officials taken it upon themselves to make rules, regulations, and laws regarding what belongs to whom, and what are we allowed to do with it? I was brought up with the ideal that the outdoors belonged to everyone - not to own, but to care for. I was allowed to collect rocks, leaves, and yes, even bugs, (Mom wasn't a big fan of reptiles) but only ONE of each specimen and no more. Today I hear the words "Put that down." so often that I can almost predict the exact instant that it will spew forth from the mouth of some bottled water-toting, cellphone-talking, D&B handbag-carrying mother who cares much less about her child's experience in the woods than she does about what time her hair appointment is or when she has to have that very child at any number of his/her other (way too grown-up) stress inducing extracurricular activities.

In my job, I see children from all walks of life, and all levels of outdoor experience - not skill, but rather simple experience. Some of the boys and girls who visit our center on class trips have "Literally" never been in the woods (They live in the Poconos of PA!) and it shows.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, SHOULD we let out children collect? Unequivocally YES! It plants the earliest seed of wonder and curiosity, which,in turn, is the basis of research - yes, research. I know what your thinking. "Surly he's not suggesting that a kid who picks up a shiny rock is going to become a geologist, the little one with a feather in their cap an ornithologist, or the one with a leaf pressed between 2 sheets of waxed paper a botanist!" No, I'm not. What I AM suggesting is that children who are suppressed and prevented from doing such things will likely NOT follow a related career path.

Teach respect for the land and its inhabitants. Share the knowledge you have with children, and, for the sake of all that is natural, LET THEM COLLECT one of anything, everything they find. If you do, they will, in turn, teach you more about those things than you could ever have imagined.

Our latest endeavor at CCEEC is an outdoor "Playscape." A fenced-in natural are where children are allowed to do the things that we all did as youngsters. They can climb on stumps, swing on a rope, build forts with sticks and branches, dig for bugs, be pirates, explorers, or anything else their little hearts and minds desire, even *gasp* collect things! Why a fence? Not for the kids, but rather for the parents peace of mind. Mom or dad can sit on a bench made from logs and chat on their Blackberries while little Billy or Mary have the time of their lives in the woods, knowing that in order to escape into the real outdoor world, the children must first come back to the one and only gate, where the parents are waiting - as if afraid to venture any further than they have to into the world of kid-dome.

*** Music begins to play softly in the background and then a voice...

♪♫ ♬ "I believe that children are our future..."♭♮♯♪♫

6:45 a.m. on October 1, 2010 (EDT)
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In your endeavors as a professional steward of our outdoors, as well as introducing society's youth to the outdoors, I laud your wise, if not PC, philosophy. In the long run LNT will benefit more from an inspired and engaged adult public, than one that perceives nature as merely an outdoor exhibit.

11:29 a.m. on October 1, 2010 (EDT)
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But, Klock, we have to protect the poor helpless children from all the dangers and injuries of Nature. There is a current lawsuit here in litigious California where a young girl was injured while sleeping in the tent overnight in one of our State Parks campgrounds - the suit is against the State Parks for not making the parks safe. The tree was a tan oak, apparently weakened by the Sudden Oak Death tree disease that particularly attacks oaks, but also affects other deciduous trees and even conifers including sequoias.

If you let the kids play with things found in nature, they might just get injured. Or (gasp!) get their hands, faces, and designer clothes dirty. And guess what - they might get exposed to poison oak/ivy/sumac or pick up a tick. There oughta be a law preventing all those nasty things out there.

I say, put all the kids in bubbles with filtered air and feed them nothing but burgers and fries, along with sugared sodas. That will keep them from harm and those nasty natural things.

8:13 p.m. on October 2, 2010 (EDT)
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When I was little the swings in our local city park were hung with chain and the seats were made with solid wooden planks, probably 2 x 8's. If one of them hit you in the head (after you leaped out of it and stood back up) it would knock you into next week. My parents had warned me of this and so when I finally got hit by one my dad asked: "Well...did you learn anything son?" There was no lawsuit since the accident was caused by my carelessness, it was considered a life lesson.

I was always allowed to run and play outdoors, and in the woods as a kid, we learned many things by getting dirty, or the occasional scraped knee. We (brother & sister) also learned about nature by being out in it, not just reading or watching TV.

We had rock collections, leaf collections, and of course bug collections.

We always carried toads home and named them, they would hang around the back porch for awhile feasting on insects attracted to the back light.

We played with snapping turtles, crawdads, centipedes, caterpillars, etc. We tried to get butterflies to land on our fingers, sometimes they would.

At dusk we always enjoyed the fireflies in the yard, and we loved tossing rocks up in the air to get the little brown bats to fly close to us.

When I grew up and had two kids of my own I made sure to allow them the same experiences, and it also let me relive my own childhood.

It's amazing what an adult can get away with when you have the excuse that you're doing it for the kids. Of course, I did do it for the kids, but it was also fun, all over again, for me too.

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