It is early, and I’m pushing the double stroller through the rain. The baby is babbling in her seat and my son is keeping up a stream of chatter, mostly for his own benefit. I can’t catch all the words, but I can hear the cadence. It’s familiar. It’s the docent cadence, the educator cadence. I’ve used it myself and I’ve heard it at every museum I’ve visited. It is the one people use when they are coaxing visitors towards new ideas.
I lean in closer and hear him saying “Insects have THREE body parts! The head, the abdomen and the thorax!” Then he goes on to explain about a centipede. It is a mash-up of information from a birthday party we went to last weekend at a nature center, and the bug book he’s become interested in since then.
It’s also familiar because it sounds just like me when I was just a little older than he is. I took my Dad’s wildflower book and led imaginary nature walks through the campground we were staying at. I was inspired by all of the Park Rangers I had heard on our visits, just like he had soaked in everything the naturalist had told him at the birthday party.
So, all of you informal educators at museums, historic sites, aquariums and nature centers. What you do matters. It is soaked up by the visitors and used again later. Maybe not all of them put it to use quite as literally as a 4 year old, but it is getting through.