Why do kids love Pokémon so much?
The game revolves around a protagonist embarking on a wild adventure — an adventure that centres around collecting (or catching) all the magnificently versatile beasts this fantasy world has to offer. This combination of vicarious travel and discovery is patently appealing to the young mind. It’s amazing to hear kids discuss Pokémon with such passion and proudly relay so much information, it really seems to come naturally to them.
What would kids a thousand or so years ago have discussed?
There could be some similarities between our ancestor’s chatter and the avid nattering of kids talking about Pokémon today. Instead of Pokémon, the fictitious beasts are swapped for real animals dwelling in the forests and seas that surround them.
Urban life and the pursuit of academic brilliance does not afford children much time or freedom to satisfy their innate curiosity for the natural world, nor their thirst for adventure. The popularity of Pokémon games amongst the younger generations seems to be a very natural response to the modern childhood experience.
The natural world is still available to them though! Just about…
The vitality of the natural world is increasingly dependent on younger generations enthusiasm for it. On an Imagine camp we would be delighted if the experience left participants with an increased appreciation for nature. The Young Ecologists camp was designed to bolster that excitement for the natural world with guided bird watching, painting classes, river tubing and much more.
Birds are particularly accessible to everyone and contain a huge amount of diversity within their ranks. From city-dwelling pigeons, diving penguins, to vibrant flamingos – it’s difficult to find an order of animals with more varied a colour palette and range of habitats than birds.
Birdwatching itself involves being in tune with nature and full engagement of the senses to find and identify them. As a hobby, birdwatching offers all the joy of collecting without the need to consume or take away anything.
For Team Imagine, Taiwan’s birds are a brilliant focus for a multi-day camp because they are omnipresent in all the locations chosen for the adventures. Taiwan’s rivers are often peppered with Plumbeous Waterstarts and flashes of Kingfishers. The trees are often found emitting a soothing hum of babbling Taiwan Barbets and jibber-jabbering Blue Magpies — birds that are particularly exciting to spot as they are endemic species to Taiwan!
Taiwan’s birdlife is world-class but the subtropical island is hardly limited to our winged friends. Taiwan’s east coast is also an exciting environment for wildlife spotting due to its diverse marine life. The colliding currents and contrasting temperatures of the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea create an abundant habitat for a variety of aquatic creatures. It’s a great place to go snorkelling, enjoy the sea and simply play some games.
Creating art in a natural setting is inherently fun and engaging, it is also a fantastic exercise in mindfulness, not just in overcoming the irritation of mosquitos! Observing and producing paintings of flora and fauna, guided by an art teacher, is fun, therapeutic and helps kids refine a skill over a short period of time. We also encourage kids to develop confidence in nature using innovative games and by teaching traditional survival skills. Kids can leave the camp knowing how to build a fire, craft a shelter or even construct a birdwatching hide — all without damaging their surroundings. Accruing these skills encourages kids to form an early connection with nature and builds confidence that can be applied to new experiences for the rest of their lives.
Where our ancestor’s success and survival depended on their harmonious relationship with nature, detached urban lifestyles can make it seem like there is little necessity for that connection today. However, as is becoming clearer and clearer — without emphasising how intrinsic our connection to the natural world is now, we risk leaving our younger generations a less biodiverse legacy.
Perhaps if they grow up keeping an eye out for the Pokémon of the real world then they will always have a robust source of joy and fascination available to them.