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WHEN VIEWING ON A MOBILE DEVICE -- DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM An Introduction to Animals and Children My first zoo experience ended with me in tears. I stuck my chubby three-​ year-​old finger through the chain-​link fence surrounding the ostriches, and one of them nipped at my finger. I cried from the sheer surprise of it all. This animal is real—​and it just tried to eat me! I must have thought. Whatever the ostrich’s intentions, the lasting impression this incident made on me shaped my life. Rather than frightening me, the ostrich intrigued me. The interaction was one of several pivotal moments for me as a young child that ignited a world of interest in animals and the natural world. As a child and an adult, I have been fascinated by our interactions with the natural world, animals specifically. This fascination led me down a career path that has been filled with op- portunities to explore the connections humans have with the natural world. I’ve been a naturalist, wildlife rehabilitator, educational consultant, teacher trainer, and educator in K–12 schools and universities. I’ve also worked in nonformal settings, such as museums and nature centers, where I taught science and nature education for preschool and elementary-​aged students, as well as teachers, parents, and families. And I helped hundreds of teachers successfully blend these topics with other disciplines in the classroom. Recently, my focus has been on nature education and how teachers can be intentional and deliberate about environmental education in the early childhood classroom. While I was writing my book Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth, which concentrates on offering developmentally appro- priate experiences about nature and the environment, I kept coming back to a central question: Where do animals fit into this picture? As I worked on that book, I discovered research that suggested meaningful encounters with animals in early childhood lead to stewardship ethics later in life. But that’s not all. I also knew instinctively, as most of us do, that children just need animals in their lives. I have observed, as have many others, that something 1 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL