When Encouraging Kids to Love Nature Backfires…or Does It?

One day I heard from a teacher (I’ll call her Ms. Kasey) at the preschool where I used to work. She told me that one of my former students (I’ll call him Cody) was stung by a wasp while trying to pet it on the playground. I immediately felt guilty. I am the one who went on and on about how we shouldn’t kill bugs. How they are important, often beautiful creatures with great purpose and interesting behavior. Despite doing my best to distinguish between potentially dangerous animals and safe ones, this story is one example of how teaching kids to love animals can seemingly ‘backfire’. But did it really?

Cody’s mom laughed when the teacher told her about the incident. She was not at all surprised that her son needed to be stung by a wasp to learn that wasps can cause people pain. Because of her own understanding of her child’s personality, she knew that no matter how many times Cody may have learned to respect things like snakes, bees, wasps, and spiders from afar (because they might hurt him) he had to experience it for himself to truly understand it. And he did. He got stung, started crying, held his finger out, and reported to his teacher “That’s a dangerous one! That’s a dangerous one, Ms. Kasey!”

Here are a few haiku that I think exemplify our complicated and sometimes childlike human relationship with the insect world:


oh, don’t swat!

the fly rubs hands

rubs feet

-Kobayashi Issa


How lonely I felt

on a cold, cold night

when I killed that spider



Wake up, butterfly!

Come on- wake up!

I want friendship.



***Note: Cody was not allergic to bees, and neither was anyone else in the class.

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