Conservation Education

elwah_science
Me with students on the Elwah River, WA

Over the years I have struggled against my inclination to be a teacher. I just don’t think I could handle the same group of kids, five days a week, month after month. But I do love working with students, and I find myself over and over being pulled towards education. I’m only just starting to understand why.

The truth, as I see it, is that all ecologists are conservationists, and all conservationists are educators. When you do what we do, and you know what we know, you are inclined to tell people. Telling people is the only way that our work is meaningful. Telling people is how science makes a difference.

The trouble is that scientists tend to be really bad at telling people what we know. Our world is different than the “normal world”. We see and think about things differently. We use a different language and don’t have many translators. We talk to each other, question each other, doubt each other, and forget who else might be listening. Sometimes we get frustrated when we are misunderstood, but this only makes us hide in our comfort zone and farther away from understanding.

Over the years I have discovered that I have a gift. I can communicate science to people. It scares me to death and it makes me giddy with excitement. No matter how hard I fight I am an educator. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but nonetheless, I will likely spend the rest of my life trying to translate science to the public.

The world sits on a dangerous precipice. Science is under attack at a time when our message is more important then ever. Our counter attack cannot be with graphs and statistics. That doesn’t inspire people. It just makes them feel inadequate. We need to move past facts and figures. We need to find a way to inspire and inform. Logic doesn’t drive behavior – we know this, neuroscience has proven it. It doesn’t even drive our own behavior. We must take the time and we must make the effort to talk to people. Not talk at people. Talk to people. Perhaps that will make all the difference.

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