On 12 February 1809, Charles Darwin was born in Shropshire, England. An animal and nature lover, Darwin is one of the world’s most celebrated biologists; his theories transformed the way we think about the natural world.
Today on his birthday, we celebrate part of Darwin’s legacy – that of inspiring curiosity, the pursuit of knowledge about nature, and the interconnectedness of all living things in our world.
Most people know Darwin’s fascination with nature began when he was a little boy. Schools in Victorian England would have been pretty formidable institutions, with little room for imagination and curiosity.
Apparently he found school extremely boring, preferring instead to be outside, exploring nature. In 1831, aged 22, he had the most incredible opportunity to travel the world observing and documenting flora and fauna.
He was profoundly moved by his experiences during the long and dangerous voyage aboard HMS Beagle.
In his writings, Darwin describes with absolute delight and amazement the sheer diversity of life at sea and on the lands he visited.
Charles Darwin showed us the vastness of life, and that humans are animals too with our own place in the great web of life on Earth.
In our work to protect animals and their habitats at IFAW, a major barrier we face is the attitude that the world and all life within it are there for us to use as we please, that humans hold dominion over the Earth.
It is this attitude that has led to cruelty and the devastation of species and their habitats.
This is why it is imperative that we teach our next generations that we humans are part of the stunning diversity of life on Earth and that all life has value.
As Charles Darwin said, “The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”
We could not agree more.
If we can inspire children to look at animals and the natural world with wonder, respect and empathy we can impart the desire to PROTECT.
This is why IFAW’s Animal Action Education (AAE) program is such a priority for us.
To know and understand animals, the interconnectedness of living things, to inspire knowledge, skills and compassion – this is the heart of the AAE program.
Through AAE we aim to encourage a Darwin-like curiosity about animals and the environment, and light a spark in children to seek answers and to question the answers.
Teachers all over the world have told us their students love the AAE materials, and ongoing evaluations report the program is meeting our goals of improving knowledge and attitudes towards animals.
Far from the uncreative and rigid lessons of Darwin’s school era, the program is flexible, it’s science-based but designed to fit a variety of curricula such as languages, arts and society.
Although classroom based, the AAE program connects children with nature, it inspires compassion and respect towards all living creatures and equips children with the knowledge to make choices that ultimately improve the well-being of individual animals, their populations and habitats.
Today, Darwin Day, we encourage everyone to be curious – no matter where you live, town or country, learn something new.
You don’t have to embark on an epic voyage, just take a look outside, or online or in the library, think about all the living things around you, what do they eat, what eats them, are they native to your area, for example.
Ask questions, be curious and make new discoveries for yourself.