There is a book called “Last Child in the Woods” about saving our children from nature-deficit disorder, written by Richard Louv. The book reflects the growing international concerns about nature deficit in children and the corresponding social movement that has emerged in the United States, Canada, and other countries. He talks about the people of the baby boomer and older age group that enjoyed a kind of free natural play in the outdoors that seems, in this era of kid cell phones, instant messaging, Nintendo, like a quaint artifact.
One section that intrigued me was how Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard, developed his influential theory of multiple intelligence in 1983. Gardner argued that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on I.Q. testing, was far too limited; he instead proposed seven types of intelligence to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults.
Most recently he added an eighth intelligence: naturalist intelligence, “nature smart”. Charles Darwin, John Muir, and Rachel Carson are examples of this. The core of the naturalist intelligence is the human ability to recognize plants, animals, and other parts of the natural environment, like clouds or rocks.
Maybe this explains why some photographers have a natural ability to see and photograph things in nature that others walk right passed.
Naturalist intelligence deals with sensing patterns and making connections to elements in nature. Using this same intelligence, people possessing enhanced levels of this intelligence may also be very interested in other species, or in the environment and the earth. Children possessing this type of intelligence may have a strong affinity to the outside world or to animals, and this interest often begins at an early age. They may enjoy subjects, shows and stories that deal with animals or natural phenomena. Or they may show unusual interest in subjects like biology, zoology, botany, geology, meteorology, paleontology, or astronomy. People possessing nature smarts are keenly aware of their surroundings and changes in their environment, even if these changes are at minute or subtle levels. Often this is due to their highly-developed levels of sensory perception. Their heightened senses may help them notice similarities, differences and changes in their surroundings more rapidly than others. People with naturalistic intelligence may be able to categorize or catalog things easily too. Frequently, they may notice things others might not be aware of. As children these people often like to collect, classify, or read about things from nature — rocks, fossils, butterflies, feathers, shells, and the like.