Eye on Nature

Nature TV & DVDs

by Jane Kirkland

Teacher Program

Educators and their families are invited to Jane Kirkland’s program, “I Saw a Bald Eagle Soaring Over My Grocery Store,” on Oct. 21, 2-3pm at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, 8601 Lindbergh Blvd., Phila.

Jane describes her story as an accidental naturalist. A 1pm refuge tour and kids’ activities precede the talk. A book signing follows. 215-365-3118.

Outdoor exploration and discovery are essential vitamins for kids. As children, my generation spent many hours playing outside, and so should our children.

Now comes my most un-favorite time of the year, when Daylight Saving (no “s”) Time changes the clocks on our walls and in our bodies. When our clocks “fall back,” so do our outdoor activities. When our outdoor activities fall back, our TV time rises.

This year, I’m throwing in the towel — sort of. If it’s TV kids want, then it’s TV they’ll get from me — as long as the program or movie is about nature!

Animal Planet
Let’s talk about Animal Planet (a Discovery channel). Usually a basic cable channel, it has become the MTV of today’s elementary school kids.

Don’t give Animal Planet carte blanche to children age 9 and younger, though. Not all Animal Planet programs are G-rated.

The animal-cop reality shows are PG rated (as well they should be). The day after I recommended Meerkat Manor (G-rated), to the famliy of a 6-year-old, I watched an episode with scenes of dead and abandoned newborn meerkats.

In that episode, the narrator discussed the possibility that the matriarch might murder her grandchildren to ensure the survival of her own children. I’d give that show a PG rating.

Animal Planet’s popular The Most Extreme is my all-time favorite combination of science, technology, and entertainment. It’s G-rated but I recommend parents watch before allowing their 6-year-olds to watch.

Nature Films
Here’s a list of my current top five family nature films that will raise your family’s Nature IQ. Nature is best filmed with the best technology, so these are contemporary films. They are as much eye candy as they are educational and entertaining.

Fly Away Home
Sony Pictures, 1996
Rated PG
This heartwarming children’s movie, inspired by a true story, is about a girl who adopts a flock of orphaned Canada geese. Her father helps her to teach them survival skills and she and her father help teach the birds to migrate, using an ultra-light aircraft. www.operationmigration.org/fly_away_home.html

The Blue Butterfly
Monterey Video, 2004
Rated PG
Inspired by a true story, The Blue Butterfly is a coming-of-age tale of a 10-year-old boy who is terminally ill. He has one wish: to catch the blue morpho butterfly.

His mother seeks the help of a renowned entomologist and before they know it, the boy and his mother are in the rainforest with the entomologist in search of the butterfly.

I hate to give away endings but parents need to know that the boy does not die in the movie. Be sure to watch the extras provided on DVD. www.bluebutterflythe movie.com

March of the Penguins
Warner Home Video, 2005
Rated G
Follow the lives of emperor penguins in Antarctica, the harshest place on earth, as they walk for miles and miles to return to their breeding grounds. There, the females lay their eggs and then return to the sea.

The male penguins incubate the eggs for two months in the dead dark of winter. They cannot leave the eggs and they have no food to eat. The mothers must return when the eggs hatch to feed the young or the chicks will die. http://wipwarnerbros.com/marchofthepenguins

Winged Migration
Sony Pictures, 2001
Rated G
Can you imagine your kids watching a movie without words? Another Academy Award-nominated feature film, Winged Migration follows birds from a bird’s eye view as they migrate around the world.

This movie is stunning. To say that the narration is minimal is an understatement. I introduced the movie at a WXPN Kids Corner film presentation a few years ago and the kids were mesmerized. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s a great rental for the entire family. www.sonyclassics.com/ wingedmigration/home.html

Microcosmos
Miramax, 1996 Rated G
Kids love insects — even if only from a distance. And they’ll love this macro look at insects. The time-lapse photography is fascinating. The underwater scene of a spider catching its prey and creating an air bubble in which to breathe is so amazing it could cure arachnophobia!

Enjoy your TV-watching this season, but please don’t forget to take your 20-second nature break outdoors every day. Remember, the more you look, the more you’ll see.

Jane Kirkland is a Downingtown, PA speaker, naturalist, photographer and author of the Take A Walk nature books for kids. Learn more at www.takeawalk.com