The other day I had lunch in a restaurant that was full of children. It was a familiar scene: They were all connected to their electronic devices—smartphones, tablets, and DVD players. This was nothing new, but I saw it with new eyes. All I could think of was how refreshing it has been to look through your images every evening (all 10, 273 of them) which show very different types of childhood experiences. You’ve shown me family camping trips, the night your children danced in the rain, and the time you covered each other in fall leaves. You’ve also told me about what these experiences mean to you in your beautiful captions.
I usually find it easier to edit other people’s work than my own, because I am less emotionally attached to the images. This assignment was different. So many of your images spoke to universal childhood experiences that I had a difficult time keeping nostalgia for my own childhood from influencing my final selections. But, ultimately, I knew I had to narrow down the 10,000-plus submissions to this small selection.
So, over the past few days, I’ve gone through your submissions and tried to select images that tell a story about children’s fascination with the natural world. I looked for moments of joy and excitement, but also for quiet moments that showed connection and contemplation. I also looked for images of nature that seemed almost magical, like the image of the “fairies” or the jar of fireflies. The result is, I think, a lovely essay about childlike wonder, curiosity, and memory.
You’ll also notice that, for the first time ever, we’re featuring images from the National Geographic Kids My Shot community in the published story. I’ve selected images from nine talented young photographers and I hope you will leave some encouraging comments on their awesome photos from the Wild Child challenge on My Shot. Hopefully they will join our community on Your Shot one day!
I’m so happy with the results of this assignment. I can’t tell you how much joy going through your incredible submissions has brought me. As a conservationist, this assignment is particularly important to me because I feel strongly that children will care more about nature and the environment if they are exposed to the outdoors at a young age. One of my favorite quotes about this relationship comes from author David Sobel: “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.”
Thank you all for participating in this assignment. Thank you for sharing these experiences with your children and for reaching back and trying to recapture the wonder you once felt in nature—and hopefully feel again. Hope you'll all join me and My Shot photo editor Hilary Andrews for a live chat right below on the story discussion board on September 6, 1 p.m. ET. Ask us anything about story editing, educating young people and our love for the great outdoors.