a spark story By rebekah malpass

Nature on Display: As a Gainesville native, I grew up visiting the Florida Museum of Natural History. I took many field trips there and always found myself amazed by the huge fossils and the interactive exhibits. I remember when they installed the American Mastodon fossil and how small it made me feel. Going back all these years later, it still made me feel like a little ant when I stood next to it! The wonder I had as a child was definitely still strong as I stood next to the fossilized mastodon. It's really cool to be able to examine things from the natural world up close to gain a better understanding of our surroundings. (Photo taken in the main entryway of the FLMNH, fossil shown is of the American Mastodon).
Nature on Display: While the American Mastodon inspired wonder in me as a child, the giant shark jaws have always scared me a little bit (see my facial expression for proof). Imagining something that large existing in the same oceans like to swim in scares me out of my mind! Despite that fear, the giant fossils are definitely one of my favorite exhibits. While I love the butterfly rainforest, the fossils display the grandness of nature to me in a way the butterflies don't. I consider myself a Christian and I believe God created the Earth, so to see these amazing, huge creatures he created that lived so long ago is truly spectacular I think it shows the excellent craftsmanship of the God that I choose to believe in and follow. (Photo taken in the Shark Jaw Row exhibit of the FLMNH).
Nature and Ethics: The FLMNH is a great place to be immersed in nature without causing any damage. They have recreated pieces of Florida's natural landscape and history in order to let people of all ages walk around, touch, hear, see, and discover the details of the world we live in. They also have provided interactive exhibits on how to live sustainably (see picture) and what it means to appreciate and respect nature correctly. However, if I got to choose how I would “love, respect, and admire” the world around me, I would choose to visit the many natural sites right here in Gainesville! Some of my favorite things to do are hike at La Chua Trail, the Paynes Prairie overlook, Loblolly Woods Nature Park, and San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, swim in natural springs like Blue Springs and the Itchetucknee, and canoe or paddle board on the Santa Fe river. I think getting out in nature itself, experiencing the sun and the air and the water while being sure to treat it with care, is the best way to understand that our Earth is beautiful and worthy of being preserved. (Photo taken at the Our Energy Future exhibit of the FLMNH).
Nature and the Human Spirit: The FLMNH shows us the past, present, and future of our state's natural environment. It gives a sample of the mysterious and magical things that we can experience by going outside. I chose this picture to represent that because I love the beach and I think it's constantly changing landscape is something that makes it mysterious and magical. The FLMNH shows visitors an in-depth view of the wonderful state we call home so that when we go out to explore its beauty, we can act responsibly and sustainably while still enjoying the lovely spaces right outside our doors. I think everyone can find a part of nature that speaks to them, be it the beach or the springs or the prairie or something completely outside of the state of Florida. Everyone should find a space in nature that evokes positive emotion, and the FLMNH is a great starting point when searching for such a space. (Photo taken at the Exploring our World exhibit of the FLMNH).

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