I flipped through this book just now, My Little Bird Book by Elizabeth Gould, to find a picture of a goldfinch (having just enjoyed their return to my garden) and I realized once I came to the illustration that this book must have been published in England (it was -- no publication date given, but it's old). Indeed, this is not the bird we know as the goldfinch here in the states (or, at least, the Eastern US). I don't know the Latin names of any birds, so I swim in the soup that is the "common name" and am just happy when I know at least that much. I used to know more of the Latin names of the flowers in my garden, but this spring find myself having a hard time bringing those names out -- I usually begin with something along the lines of, "I know it begins with an 'A'." I like to think that I keep filling my brain with so much information that I can't keep it all in, even if it is just the date and time of this week's soccer game, and whose birthday party is this Saturday and what time it starts and ends, and what we're out of and need more of from the grocery store. That line is more comforting than the idea that I am simply losing it.
I'm trying, regardless of what we call them, to learn some of the birds by their song this spring. I'd like to be able to sit, cock my head, and say, "oh, the goldfinch must be nearby!" Reminds me that Dean has a nice cd designed to teach children some common birdsong -- have to dig that out. [Ah! A pair of Canadian geese are flying overhead right now -- theirs is a tune I can always recognize! Hooonk, Hooonk to you, too!] I'm pretty sure I can identify most if not all of the trees in our yard. Dean knows more of the birds than I do, but I'm working on it. (I didn't believe him, initially, when he glanced up and said, "oh, that's a cedar waxwing" -- but then I looked it up and decided to go with his identifications without question and try to learn something at the same time.)
Our school is undertaking a more formal, organized approach to something we've done pieces of all along; place-based education. David Sobel spoke at school recently and lit a fire under us to implement some specific programs for next year. The very basic idea is that children learn in-depth, and in a hands-on, active way about the world that's right around them -- they learn about their immediate environment, their community, and take a meaningful role in its improvement. That could include anything from planting a garden to getting involved in local politics or public service projects. A fundamental component of our school is that the adults in the community are there to learn as much as the children are. Now that I piece this all together, I realize it's a big part of why I feel good about my life -- I feel overall that I am in the right place, doing the right things. Still feel there's more to do than I can manage at any one time, but I'm trying to keep moving ahead and constantly assessing the priorities in the moment. Now I need to get ready to go to work.