From our Educator Guest Blogger Series
Natural History - when one first hears that term they may think they know what it means, but as you think on it more, it might become a perplexing term.
Natural History is studying the environment around you and realizing how humans impact that environment. Natural History is the thread that is woven between Art, Music, History, English, Math, and Science. It is the thread that becomes our culture, our sense of purpose in the world around us. Naturalists have been studying the world since it began, even if they didn’t know to call themselves naturalists. Even you and I are naturalists. We have an instinctive curiosity to understand how the world works and why certain animals, plants, and rocks only appear in certain parts of the world.
I teach middle school, and the recurring question I get is "WHY is this Geography class important to MY life; what impact will this have on me in the future?" I have pondered this question myself, and after recently taking Rudy Mancke’s class, Exploring Naturalists Impacting SC & Beyond, offered by SCETV, I feel like I have a better answer for my students. Why is geography important to your life? It is important because it is learning about how the world was made. Why do we have differences in our culture here in SC compared to people in Mexico, West Africa, India and more? How do those differences shape how people live? We have to understand that the movement of glaciers and tectonic plates is still shaping the world we live in. Hawaii still has islands that are growing in size due to these changes.
I am learning that I have to find a way to engage my students to understand these are valuable questions they need to be asking themselves even at the age of 12 because by the time you get older those questions fade into the background of bills, children’s needs and well, adulthood. We need more people in the younger generations as passionate as Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold about the natural world and the conservation of that world. If the younger generations do not develop this passion we may lose vital pieces of our world to modern conveniences and technology. I think about the Disney movie Wall-E where instead of facing the problem of trash and waste the entire population simply flew into space and left Earth to crumble. I think about the Lorax and his message that “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot…”
So to my students who ask the question this year, I think I have found my answer. This study of geography is tied into everything you will ever do in your life. It is tied to your love of art and how we see the world. It is tied into your music notes and how you can hear those tunes with a certain ear only developed here in America. Geography is the math and the science of knowing what makes up this natural world and observing all of the numbers that exist in perfect harmony in nature. Natural History is the foundation for all of your passions and more, you just simply have to go outside and see for yourself how exquisite it is beyond these four walls.
Tiffany Ackerman graduated from Lander University with a Bachelor's of Science in History and went on to receive a Masters of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She has also studied at Clemson University and at Oxford University's Wycliffe Hall. She teaches social studies at Seneca Middle School, of the School District of Oconee County, where she tries to incorporate STEM activities into her Geography class as much as possible. This will be her 17th year teaching. When she isn't teaching, she enjoys reading, crocheting and riding bikes with her husband and three children. Tiffany can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.