Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The holidays are upon us ....

Living in the woods, it is easy to forget about rampant consumerism that takes hold of our country this time of year. There are no TVs, strip malls, or huge chain stores plastered with ads and bright lights.  Instead, I know that November is upon us because of the chill in the air, the early sunset, the apple cider and the piles of leaves that I shuffle through on my daily walk to class.

So, I suppose it is my lack of awareness which made this Toys “R” Us advertisement especially infuriating to me. The ad features an elementary school class piling onto a bus labeled “Save the Trees.” The guide, dressed up as a forest ranger, tells the students that they are about to embark on “the best field trip ever!” But as he teaches about leaves and trees, kids start to yawn and fall asleep. The guide then suddenly rips off his ranger costume and reveals a Toys “ R” Us uniform. Psych! Instead of going on a field trip to the woods, the kids get dropped off at the massive chain toy store. Celebration and chaos ensues as the kids rampage the store buying everything that they want.

After watching it, my immediate reaction was that it had to be a joke. It disgusted me on so many levels. But, it is not a joke. It is a very real advertisement with a very skewed, tragic view on our nations’ young people.  It assumes that nature is boring and that children hate science. Which, in my experience, is a very misinformed view. 

 Every week, I am blessed with the opportunity to get outside and teach experientially about science and nature. For many of my students, IslandWood is their first experience with the outdoors. The mysterious call of an owl, the bright light of the moon, the sweet taste of a foraged blackberry or the sudden sight of a deer inspires wonder and magic, it sparks curiosity and excitement. Many of them leave IslandWood saying that they will never forget what they learned here.

 I am so proud of the work that my colleagues and I do here at IslandWood.We work incredibly hard to inspire a love of nature and stewardship in our students. And across the country, there are thousands of other dedicated educators working to empower their students with critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, inquiry, and imagination through the sciences. It is incredibly important work that deserves far more respect than the Toys “R” Us marketing team is giving us.

 So this holiday season starts, I urge you to share gifts that are made responsibly, with love and care. Challenge the ads, move past plastics and take your loved ones on an adventure outside. I promise the experience will last longer than the toy they get from Toys “R” Us. 

No comments: