My six-year-old friend was playing in his backyard last weekend. He captured some bees and he put them into a small cage. He peered through the clear plastic and sat watching the bees peruse the small cluster of white blossoms he placed inside. He enthusiastically hoisted them up to show me when I arrived. “See? We caught these on the bush over there.”
Later, he wanted to release the bees. Being the curious sort, he squirted the bees with water before he freed them and noticed that they did not fly off when he took them out of the cage. I encouraged him to let the sun dry their wings and to watch how they would fly away when ready. Instead, he tried to stab one bee with a stick. I felt myself cringe. “Oh no, don’t do that to the bee,” I said.
“Why not? There’s a million of them,” he said.
I wanted a brief answer, but there was so much I wanted to explain: the importance of bees to our ecosystem, that they pollinate the many flowers that we love, and that bees are critical for growing the fruits and vegetables we eat. I thought, Yes, there are many bees in this world, but now their numbers are threatened. I felt it was my duty to teach all this to my inquisitive friend. Lacking inspiration in the moment, I said, “Bees are important to the flowers.” He, being a six-year-old, responded by finding something else that caught his interest and he ran off to another part of his backyard. I saw the bee, its wings dried, fly away.
A few days later, a friend happened to email me a TEDTalk about The Hidden Beauty of Pollination. These are stunning images of our Earth’s pollinators: bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, bats. It is worth a “full screen” view. (I sent this video to the parents of my young friend as a far better response to his question of “Why not?”)
As parents, we often feel there are so many things we are supposed to teach our children. It is sometimes difficult to navigate “teachable moments”. Often those serendipitous lessons can be the most powerful when we follow the happy collision of our child’s natural-born curiosity and happenstance. I wished I had seized the chance to show the importance of one small bee.
Louie Schwartzberg, the filmmaker who captured these gorgeous images in time-lapsed photography, said in his TEDTalk, “Beauty and seduction, I believe, is nature’s tool for survival, because we will protect what we fall in love with.” Perhaps all we have to do is to expose our children to a variety of things so that they can fall in love.
What happy collisions have you noticed with your children lately? What have your children fallen in love with? Comments about the Louie Schwartzberg’s TEDTalk and film?