My juniors spent Sunday afternoon earning their wildlife badge. A few already had--this is the second time I've run this meeting, so I changed it up a bit. One thing the badge book doesn't focus on is the use of field guides, which I think are a wonderful gateway to conservation and knowledge about wildlife and natural history. I had several bird guides, some with plates and some with photos. Since it was already afternoon and we were unlikely to see many birds about (plus, 17 juniors can be noisy!), we did this part of the activity with several photographs I had, either from my own collection or from sources online. Each group was given a few and I explained what to look for on a bird and how to use the guide their group had. Some pictures were very easy, like wood duck and red-tailed hawk, but others were tricky, like several differen species of sparrow ("little brown jobbies" or LBJs, as they are often called). Girls debated on some of them, and in the end one group was never sure if they had a picture of a white throated or white crowned sparrow. I told them that out in the field, keen observation before picking up the book was key. Watch the bird perch, watch it fly, listen to find out if it has a distinct call.
My goal there is to spark interest. Some of my girls will probably never pick up a field guide again, for birds or trees or anything like that: they just don't have interests in this area. But others I know will ask me on our camping trips to borrow one, that they've found this or that flower and just have to know what it is.
I drew some other activities from my 1953 Girl Scout Handbook. It makes me sad that we have "Wildlife" and "Plants and Animals" but we used to have Rambler, Trees, Garden Flowers, Wild Plants, Mammals, Birds, Insects, Reptiles & Amphibians, and Saltwater Life. And in order to earn some of those badges, like "Tree", a girl had to complete 10 of 16 requirements, including identification of 15 trees out of doors. It's ridiculous that the Wildlife badge doesn't include something like this--maybe not specific to trees, but that we don't even make it one of the options, to learn, say, 10 common trees, flowers, birds, or mammals that are indigenous to the area where the scout resides.
So we took a walk. Just around my block. And by the end of it they knew dogwood, sycamore, maple, American basswood, gingko (sure, it's not indigenous, but it's pervasive!), red oak (just the classification, we didn't get into specific oak species), mulberry, ash, sweetgum, and birch. I know it will need reinforcement and mnemonics in order to stick, but I think in this day and age, too many young people (and old people!) just have no clue what's in nature around them.
They also learned the 5 poisonous snakes of Missouri, the 2 spiders, and how to identify poison ivy. We did a few of the other activities in the badgebook and ended the meeting with smores around my fire pit and learning a couple of bird calls (what chew, what chew, birdie birdie birdie; and my favorite: OH sweet Canada, Canada, Canada Canada!).
Next month's regular meeting: the sewing badge. We'll rock that one out, trust me.