Human Journey

Strengthening the Bond Between Children and Nature

By Veronica Del Bianco

As a member of the Natural Leaders Network, I am dedicated to empowering a worldwide movement to strengthen the bond between children and nature. At the most basic level, this means inviting all kids – regardless of gender, race, household income or geographic location – into nature as a place to play, respect, and explore without fear.

When I was a kid, my invitation arrived via my subscription to National Geographic Magazine. Flipping through the pages each month, I soaked up the places, creatures, and cultures, and dreamed that some day, when I grew up, I would write for the magazine.

This past weekend, I lived out a small part of that childhood fantasy conducting an aquatic invertebrate species inventory in collaboration with scientists and National Geographic ambassadors at the 2013 BioBlitz in Jean Lafitte National Historic Park.

BioBlitz demonstrates to kids that they are not only welcome to enjoy natural places but can actively participate in exploring and protecting these habitats. (Photo by Veronica Del Bianco)


Traveling along the bayou in an aluminum platoon boat, we retrieved samples with dip nets and sweat. Darting Whirligig Beetles, wide-eyed Mayfly larvae, camouflaged water stick insects, and their friends filled our containers. We squinted to see them swimming around because despite being called “macro invertebrates,” aquatic invertebrates are actually very small.

Today’s adventure was like many field trips I have conducted over the last decade as an environmental educator in New Orleans, except for one major difference; this was also serious science. Our effort today was part of something greater than our individual actions alone. We helped expand the park’s official species list and understanding of its biodiversity.

I believe that encouraging participation in citizen science experiences like BioBlitz is the next logical step in strengthening the bond between children and nature. It demonstrates to kids, their families, and their educators, that they are not only welcome to enjoy natural places but can actively participate in exploring and protecting these habitats. Not “someday” when they are grown-ups, but today.


NEXT: Read all BioBlitz 2013 Blog Posts

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media.

Assignments in 80 countries/territories included visits to a secret rebel base in Angola, Sahrawi camps in Algeria, and Wayana villages in the remote Amazon. Braun traveled with Nelson Mandela on the liberation leader’s Freedom Tour of North America, accompanied President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton to their foundation’s projects in four African countries and Mexico, covered African peace talks chaired by Fidel Castro in Havana and Boutros Boutros-Ghali in Cairo, and collaborated with Angelina Jolie at World Refugee Day events in Washington, D.C. As a member of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, and media representative to the Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration, he joined researchers on field inspections in many parts of the world.

Braun has been a longtime member/executive of journalist guilds, press clubs, and professional groups, including the National Press Club (Washington) and editorial committee of the Online Publishers Association. He served as WMA Magazine of the Year Awards judge (2010-2012), advisory board member of Children’s Eyes On Earth International Youth Photography Contest (2012), and multimedia/communications affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers (2015-2017).

David Braun edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world.

He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience.

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