There are events in all our lives that surprise and inspire. When one of those happens unexpectedly-- it blazes across our minds and hearts in a very special way. I am compelled to share one of those moments with you.
A few weeks ago, Hoisington 4th grade teacher Shelly Hanzlick asked me for a collection of bird and critter pictures from our Cheyenne Bottoms area. She wanted 56 different species. That is quite a bit of ink and paper, but she said it was for a project at school and she had a “idea”. I picked some of our best and finest specimens and gave them to her. She then asked me to come to her class to do a slide show and display the cameras and big lens that I used. I can assure you, being in the presence of 4th grade children is very interesting. They asked “bird” questions, “camera” questions and “life” questions. They are eager and innocent and so very honest-- I felt for a moment the thrill of “teaching” that permeates the lives of these teacher heroes among us. It was a pivotal moment for a senior citizen.
The project became a three volume set of books with each student doing their own research on the characteristics and habits of their bird or mammal. The books are elegant, the pictures are clear and precise. Each student has their book with their name in print. It didn’t stop there. The students took a field trip to the Kansas Wetlands Education Center. They were able to see several of their specimens in real life on the way to the Center as they went through the Bottoms. Curtis, Pam, Jean and Linda showed them the live specimens and gave them so much valuable information-- I don’t have words to adequately express my admiration and respect for this vast repository of vital information about our area and the world. If you haven’t been there-- you are deprived. The class donated a set of books to the Wetlands Center. They gave me a copy of the books. Each child wrote a comment and put it with their specimen. I have nothing more valuable in my library. They stole my heart.
I hope this story inspires you as much as it did me. I hope you tell every teacher how valuable they are. We never know how hard they work, enjoy, grieve and celebrate the coming and goings and education of our children. It was truly a life experience for me and my pictures have never been used in that fashion. Isn’t it amazing-- truly amazing-- how nature and smart teachers make us all so much better.
Go look at the Bottoms. Listen to the Bottoms. See and hear the future of our children. Protect it fiercely.
Doc Witt is a retired physician and avid outdoorsmen.