I'm reading
David Suzuki and me
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
David Suzuki and me
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
David Suzuki and me
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
7 April 2016

David Suzuki and me

Sometimes learning  can occur in the most unusual of places.

Written by Marita Davies

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Image by: Duncan Maloney Source: Unsplash

I’m not really too sure who put them there, but at some stage in my primary school years, two David Suzuki books found their way into our family bathroom.

Alongside a huge joke book and three copies of Readers Digest, David Suzuki’s Activities for Kids formed a little pile under the window alongside old soaps, extra toilet rolls and ageing bottles of nail polish. Some pages were crisp white, others dog-eared and creased, the books sat patiently in our bathroom for years; allowing each visitor to flick through, read a page or two and then be on their way.

We had Suzuki’s Looking at Plants and Looking at the Weather—the latter my favourite mainly because it had a cool photo of lightning striking through purple, stormy skies. The books were full of projects and experiments and I read them with curiosity. On countless occasions, I’d swing open the bathroom door, triumphantly declaring that I needed a glass/jug of water/mirror/ball of string to construct one of Suzuki’s experiments.

Multiple days passed with various experiments performed on the back veranda and kitchen table. One summer I sat on the lawn for hours with a piece of paper and a magnifying glass, trying to burn the paper. I was fascinated by the activity—setting paper on fire with a magnifying glass and a hot Australian summer sun? Amazing!

What was even more amazing is that from the humble family toilet, Suzuki gently nurtured me to explore nature in even the most developed surroundings. “Look closely at an unpainted door,” he advised. “You might see the ring pattern the tree made as it grew. Sap once flowed through that wood. It was once alive.”

I began looking at everything in a new light: our floorboards, the condensation on the shower, toilet paper. Suddenly the penny had dropped. There were trees, plants and water surrounding me everywhere I went.

Placing those books in the bathroom was a gentle environmental nudge from my parents, but I don’t think even they could’ve predicted how great of an influence it would have on me. At school I played sport, learned multiple musical instruments and loved art classes. Science was never much of an interest of mine in the classroom, but at home, Suzuki encouraged me to discover photosynthesis, understand bees at work and observe cloud formations.

For me, those experiments weren’t about “science” or “environmental studies,” they were about curiosity and discovery. They were about life. “Plants are vital for all life on this planet. You can realise how important plants are by trying to imagine what our earth would be like without them.”

All these years later, I find myself working on and passionately discussing environmental and climate change issues daily. And Suzuki’s books still resonate. Kiribati, my mother’s country, is predicted to drown under rising sea levels within 50 years. Having been so influenced by environmental literature in my youth, I felt it natural to write a children’s book that addressed climate change. When writing Teaote and the Wall, I focused on encouraging an enthusiasm and wonder of the earth—just as Suzuki had done for me.

Our world is in urgent need of answers for the biggest issues surrounding our livelihood. We need to raise children that are passionate about our planet and genuinely interested in how we can make this world a better place. But we should never underestimate when and where kids will learn. From the toilet to the classroom, children will develop an interest in the natural world around them. A gentle nudge is all that is needed. Even if it means the rest of the family banging on the bathroom door, waiting for their turn.

Marita Davies

Marita Davies is the author of Teaote and the Wall. Both a Kiribati and Australian citizen, she has been writing and sharing the climate change issues that face Kiribati for the past six years.

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