Mom and dad groundhogs split up after the babies are born leaving the mother a single parent. Once siblings are old enough they go off on their own, never to return home. Sound familiar?
Most animals nurture their young with loyalty and commitment. Even in the case of the groundhog, there is still a lesson that can be taught. Look at how confident and willing they are to leave the nest and face the world alone!
The innate ability to care for our young can be lost in the day to day shuffle we call life. Reawaken yourself to nature. Recognizing nature's survival skills in a playful way just as the animals do.
Ms. Isa Leshko, featured in the NYTimes for her photography and winner of the Keystone Award shared with reporters what prompted her Elderly Animal Project: "My maternal grandmother had dementia during her later years, and now my mom has it. I am scared of developing Alzheimer’s disease." She continues candidly, " I get nervous whenever I lose my keys or forget a person’s name. Photographing geriatric animals enables me to immerse myself in my fear of growing old. I have come to realize that these images are self-portraits. Or at the very least, they are manifestations of my fears and hopes about what I will be like when I am old."
Once you've taken a scroll through her website, and read her individual stories connected to each picture, an emotional connection begins. To see life from a different perspective due to these animal's ability to overcome suffering and how Ms. Leshko connects her own life's experience, is awe inspiring.
Unfortunately there are no pictures of groundhogs....or their shadows!
Classrooms in the United States are now adopting pets; moving into a more intimate relationship beyond the school mascot.
A football coach names its team the 'wolverines'. What characteristics of such an animal do you think the coach hopes their team and even it's supporters will adopt? Bear cubs are cute but to this day there is no basketball teams sporting this title, neither is a snail icon lovingly sewn on the arm of team uniforms. Simple concept, yes?
Learning through animals is a vast topic, this article could barely scratch the surface.
For preschoolers mimicking animals becomes one of the most exciting and joyful activities. We introduce animal sounds and movement along the course of any given day in fun, in exercise and in beginning phonics.
How many exercises can you think of that mimic the way an ape walks?
How much does it take to wiggle like a snake?
These are questions we can pose to children to make then think and play along, get out some needed energy building strength and coordination.
"Most children are fascinated by animals and feel a natural connection to them, whether they're family pets or live in a zoo, a park, a classroom, or on a farm." Scholastic.com "It's no wonder that the story lines of countless classic books and favorite characters are based on animals, from Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit to Norman Bridwell's Clifford, the Big Red Dog. Children can relate to an animal's innocence, vulnerability, and in the case of pets, dependence on others for survival."
There is so much more an animal can teach our children, math skills, literacy skill, communication, social and ethical skills.
"We often pride ourselves on our ability to feel empathy and compassion,: Marc Bekoff author and scientific researcher argues "But we're not the only mammals that exhibit these emotions. We could actually learn a lot from our animal neighbors."
Bekoff says documenting how many different species make moral decisions and act compassionately toward their counterparts is a burgeoning field of research. He hopes to use this research to inspire more members of the human species to act similarly toward other animals, to expand what he calls our "compassion footprint."
Caring for and being responsible with the family pet begins a life long process of nurturing and structure. It can be one of the most rewarding experiences a child can have. If having a pet in the home or in the classroom is not an option. Consider some of the sites on the web with pictures of funny and cute animals. A fascinating dialogue most likely will ensue between you and your animal lover.
Some studies have found that pet ownership can encourage language and communication skills, because children tend to talk to their animals; to confide their feelings, show affection, give commands, and sometimes even incorporate them into their pretend-play scenarios. Again, if pet ownership is not on the agenda, have them pick their own stuffed animals. It's a beginning!
When asking children to mimic the sounds an animal makes it's easy to see their reaction.
If pronunciation of words, endings or a developmental type of lisp has been noticed. Bring along an animal sounds tape or sing along when traveling in the family vehicle. It will open the door easily to verbal practice a child with difficulty would typically hedge away from.
Other Research and resources to consider:
These are both wonderful sites, and a beautiful testimony of how animals enhance and bring much more to our lives then were we to live without them. Maybe one day we'll find a groundhog!
Again, this topic can become a vast and exhausting discovery of animals and their amazing influence in our lives and those of others. If you have any stories you would like to pass on, please feel free to comment!