Peter Schriemer Explores The Nature of God
- Laura MacCorkle
- 2011 16 Aug
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. But he did not make iPhones. In fact, there were no computers. No hand-held electronic devices. No texting. No Wii-ing. And certainly no online social networking.
And God saw that it was good.
But what was once good is now perhaps taken for granted, as many of us who live a more plugged-in lifestyle these days can easily forget the wonders of God’s creation that are right outside our very own back doors.
If Peter Schriemer has his way about it, however, that will soon change. As creator, host and author of Zonderkidz’s new The Nature of God DVD, book and curriculum series, the award-winning filmmaker and energetic hands-on naturalist hopes to inspire children of all ages to be amazed at God’s creation and to explore the world around them. Most recently seen on the small screen as host of the Smithsonian Channel’s Critter Quest! television series, Peter created The Nature of God specifically for young learners and readers to show them how the Creator’s very nature is reflected in what he has made.
Take the Fowler’s Toad, for example. God demonstrates his protection for us in that he gave these bumpy amphibians camouflage, or rather the ability to blend in with their surroundings. And then there’s the Goby Fish. Not only are Gobies very small fish and therefore a food source for bigger ocean creatures, but they also show God’s plan and provision in helping to clean up their habitat by eating small plant and animal matter around them. They even eat parasites and dead skin off of larger fish!
Goby Fish and Fowler’s Toads are just two of many creatures that Schriemer is excited for us to discover and ponder in The Nature of God. The twentysomething admits he’s still a kid at heart and his youthful delivery on camera, as well as his engaging writing style in the books, definitely backs that up. His enthusiasm for God and nature is infectious, as he holds a wiggling Hognose snake very carefully in his hand or describes what it’s like to interact with a very squishy and funny-looking octopus.
The Nature of God series includes three DVDs for each sub-category: Wilderness Discoveries was shot on location around the state of Michigan and Ocean Adventures explores the Pacific Ocean around the Hawaiian islands. There are also two accompanying books with vivid photography and fun facts for each set of DVDs, although each can certainly stand alone for those who only wish to read. Separate curriculum DVDs are available as well and include questions, activities and study guides for individual, family or even school or Sunday School usage.
After watching two of the entertaining 30-minute DVDs and reading through the colorful and captivating books, the nature lover in me just had to know more. So I (gulp) plugged in and picked up the phone to ask Peter personally why he created The Nature of God series and why we, as God’s human handiwork, should care about and want to discover the rest of his creation.
Something I noticed right off the bat with both The Nature of God DVDs and books is that you are able to relate so well to children and get them excited about creation. How are you able to do that?
Partly because I think inside I’m still eight years old. I have a youthful spirit, and as a child I always wanted to be Peter Pan. I always wanted to be a little boy and have fun. And I just love little kids, and I love the imagination that children have and the wonder and the innocence that they possess. And I remember even being young and recognizing that and wanting to always have that. And so I loved watching children’s television growing up, and I still do—especially the shows that really connect with kids and inspire them. And I wanted to do that when I grew up. And so it’s about having fun, it’s about being positive, it’s about encouraging kids and playing to imagination and excitement. They respond to that, and it’s really fun to see them respond to that.
We live in such a plugged-in world these days. Do you think that this DVD and book series will encourage kids to put down the electronic devices, turn off their computers and get outside and explore?
That is my hope. It’s one of several hopes I have for this series, but definitely one of them. There’s a book written by Richard Louv called Last Child in the Woods, and the book basically covers the ideas and research behind understanding how childhood has changed. And it discusses the fact that children are not growing up the way previous generations have, and my generation actually is the last generation to know the world before the Internet. And so in some ways it feels sort of like a personal responsibility knowing that everyone who’s younger than me does not know what that world is like and that kids today are not spending their time outside.
I read somewhere that kids spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors these days, and on average seven hours in front of a screen which is just unreal. And as a result of that we’re seeing all kinds of issues like childhood obesity and other disorders and problems because of the lack of activity and also a lack of connection with the natural world. Richard Louv is not a believer, so he’s not talking about God. But we understand as Christians that, of course, it’s healthy to be in the creation that God made for us to be in. And if we separate ourselves from the natural world, from the things that are real and organic and tangible, then we’re going to be separating ourselves from the reality of the Creator who made it. Then there are studies that show that children who spend time outside in a green space when they take a break from homework, versus children who spend time in an inner-city space, are much more mentally ready to come back to work and are much more sharp and refreshed than children who are in an inner-city space. And this is just common sense for us as Christians when you know that the natural world is what God made, and having a connection with that and understanding the natural world and appreciating having an ability to spend time in the natural world is going to be healthy for us mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. God made the world, and we’re supposed to be in it.
I really do hope this whole project is something that’s going to take kids outside. [People say] ‘Well you’re making videos, Peter, but you want kids to go outside?’ Well, in order to get kids outside, you have to meet them where they are. And where are they? They’re in front of a screen. So you have to show them what they’re missing outside. And my hope with anything that I do—‘cause I also did a series for the Smithsonian Channel called Critter Quest!—and my hope with any of my shows and projects like this is that the kids turn off the TV as soon as the show is over and head outside. That is what I want to have happen.
For the readers or viewers who know you from Critter Quest! would you say The Nature of God series is similar in terms of content and the look and feel?
It’s going to be different. Every project that I do in this nature kind of thing has a very similar mission and goal in mind behind it. However, in terms of the style and maybe the content and how we approach it, it is going to be different in each project. And so the mission in many ways is the same: to reach children, to excite them about the outdoors and equip them with the knowledge and the enthusiasm to safely explore outside. That’s the mission behind almost everything that I do. However, there are different ways and different styles to approach that mission. And with Critter Quest!, I wasn’t allowed to speak about God the Creator because it’s the Smithsonian. And so it was the worldview of a Christian without talking about it explicitly.
But the big difference I’d say, and there are some other issues, but I’d say the big difference is that The Nature of God not only directly honors God as the Creator and Artist behind the natural world, but delves into his character and delves into the design that he’s put into nature from time to time throughout the episodes. And I’m really excited about that because I feel that the presentation is very natural and isn’t heavy handed. I’ve seen some presentations where there’s nature, but then there’s like a sermon in the middle of the thing. I don’t want to be critical of other projects out there, but I think that The Nature of God, in terms of the videos, is first and foremost a nature show. That’s what it is. It’s a nature show that honors God and references him and talks about his loving character. So that’s what it is. It’s a nature show made by a Christian. There isn’t Scripture within the context of the consumer DVDs, but there is however in the curriculum and that’s how I sort of did that. The consumer DVDs is a nature show that acknowledges God; it gives glory to him. But the curriculum actually dives into some of the specific aspects of who God is and has Scripture and has Bible lessons and questions and things. And so there’s a separate product that you can get to have those discussions and study about who God is.
Could you talk more specifically about how the curriculum DVDs go deeper?
I know that in the videos that we did we actually shot extra stuff for the video curriculum. So there are extra things. For one half hour we have three lessons and with every episode of The Nature of God there’s a theme about a character trait of God. God is loving, God is caring, God is all knowing, etc. And so that theme that is presented in the consumer DVDs is expanded upon in the curriculum DVDs where I take at least three animals out of every episode and use them as illustrations along with Scripture to remind us about how God is that character trait. And so we take a look at the dolphin, we take a look at the whale and we talk about how looking at this creature that you know God has made it and what it reminds us of how God provides for us or how he cares for us or how excellent he is. And so I explain that there’s Scripture to utilize along with that, and there’s footage of me introducing that concept and then wrapping up that concept at the end of the video. And so that would be designed for . . . it could be family, it could be homeschool, it could be a Christian private school. On the inside of the [consumer] DVDs there are discussion guides that I wrote that are specifically designed to utilize with the half-hour show for family devotions or discussion time. So when you buy that DVD, there is going to be a little guide in there which actually can double even in a Sunday School setting because there are discussion questions, there’s an introduction and there are some activity suggestions.
I’m encouraging kids to get outside. I’m encouraging and challenging parents, in this world where a whole family can be sitting in a room but none of them are with each other because they’re all in front of a screen or they’re in front of an iPod or a video game or they’re on their phone texting, and no one’s talking to each other. I say use this video to actually have real family time. Sit together, watch it together, use this guide to engage in a discussion, have a quiz game to answer the quiz questions, do a family activity, engage with each other, use this to have some quality family time. So that’s what the discussion guide in the video is supposed to do.
There’s so much information in the DVDs and the books. But you’ve delivered it in such a way that it doesn’t feel like you’re taking in a never-ending lecture. You’ve made learning about The Nature of God very fun and engaging for kids. Do you have other experience in working with and reaching children?
One of the things is I regularly work with children in person. And so I give presentations. I’ve given presentations within my church many times. In fact, The Nature of God series spawned from a summer Sunday School program I created for my church. And they asked me if I could do some nature stuff, and I did the whole summer. I did every Sunday. I brought in my animals, and I showed video clips from different documentaries and things, and I talked about the animals up front, and I had discussion questions for the teachers and activity ideas and all that and it was so popular with the kids. I was like, 'I’ve got to reach a wider audience than just my church,' and that’s really how The Nature of God started.
But that’s how I would answer in terms of ‘how do I know.’ I work with kids and I try stuff out with kids in front of me and how do they respond—you know what gets them excited, what turns them on. And I always think of myself in terms of the inner child. What makes me excited? What do I want to hear? What’s going to make me go ‘holy cow’ and just get pumped. I always try to think of it from the viewpoint of the child and me when I was young. It’s all about the ‘wow factor.’ You have to bring the wow facts. The most crazy cool facts. That’s what kids want. And you deliver it, and you hook them with that and then you can talk about some other facts that maybe aren’t as crazy cool, but you have to bring out what’s the wow thing that will get them all pumped. Then you equip them with the other knowledge, and you deliver it in a way that’s engaging and fun and then you just keep moving. You keep moving on to the next thing; you don’t stay on one thing too long. In this day and age, kids’ attention spans aren’t what they used to be, and so without being ADD in your format you need to make sure that your pacing is fast enough to keep their attention.
Should children and their parents read the books first or the DVDS or does it really matter?
I would say it doesn’t matter. In some ways, the videos are the spirit of the series because you have the energy on camera to watch and because kids are media oriented. I think that’s sort of the home base part. You get them hooked there. But hopefully enough families and children are still book oriented, and I think the books can easily stand on their own and that kids in the family can engage with those books without having watched the videos and really have a lot of fun with those. But I think sort of in some ways the videos are the backbone of the project.
In filming The Nature of God DVDs or writing the books or just in general is there a creature that’s your favorite to study or handle or look for in nature?
It’s hard to pick because being a nature guy I love all of creation, and there’s some I love more than others. But I really got my start in the world of frogs. And I’ve been called ‘The Frog Man’ many a time growing up when I was like 11 years old; it’s sort of when I started to own my education, where it went from being taught to 'I’m actively learning this myself on my own and on my own time.' And I went to the public library and checked out a bazillion books on herpetology, the study of reptiles, amphibians and things, and I’d say frogs were my first love in nature. And so the world of reptiles and amphibians is one that is near and dear to my heart, and close second to that I would say is the world of insects—and beetles being my favorite insect. I love beetles. Tiger Beetles are like my favorite beetle period. They’re so fun and engaging, and they’re not easy to catch and all that kind of stuff.
But another thing that I would connect with that is that both the world of reptiles and amphibians and insects are the two groups that are most accessible to children. If you are a child, you cannot hold a chipmunk; you cannot hold an owl. But you can catch a toad, and you can catch beetles and those are the most accessible creatures that you’re going to be able to come across. For me that’s been my focus anyway. I’m a hands-on naturalist and with children . . . I’m not going to say you’re not going to remember the stuff you observe, but you’re certainly going to remember the stuff that you touch. And so with toads and frogs and beetles and critters like that you actually get up really close and have a full sensory experience with them if you will. They’re going to be ones that are going to stay in your memory forever. So I attribute some of that back to my choices in terms of what really stands out to me in the natural world.
Are there any funny or interesting behind-the-scenes stories that happened while you were filming or writing for either Ocean Adventures or Wilderness Discoveries?
It was such a wild ride shooting all that stuff. We spent two and a half weeks and had two different trips to Hawaii to film [Ocean Adventures]. We went on a really great two-week trip all over the state of Michigan filming the Wilderness Discoveries, and it was just a blast. One of the things that happened when filming the whales was we had baby whale come right up next to the boat and stick its head out of the water—which you don’t see that every day and even if you go whale watching you don’t see that every day. And he stuck his head out and looked at me, and I was just like ‘holy cow.’ And it was just one of the most amazing things to be able to see that baby calf that’s just like 20 feet long and 4,000 pounds. I was just like, ‘This baby is huge!’
And the highlight for the Hawaiian episodes other than the whales, I mean there were a lot of highlights so I don’t want to downplay any particular experience, but holding that octopus was amazing. That was just unreal. I mean those guys are like nothing else. We had this nineteen-year-old kid who was on the boat with us who was part of the crew, and he’s grown up in Maui. And he was free diving which means no scuba gear; you’re deep down just holding your breath under the water. And he was looking around and I explain it in the introduction to the Hawaiian book, but he was swimming around down there and he grabs this Tako—what they call it, but it’s an octopus. And he comes up to the surface and says to get in the water, and he hands me this octopus. If he hadn’t been handing it to me, I wouldn’t have done it. I don’t trust this octopus. I don’t know what he’s going to do to me. I don’t know if he’s got a razor-sharp beak underneath. And so I get in the water and he like hands it to me, and it took us a while to get all of the legs off of him and onto me, and it just looked like this saggy, soggy thing that you’re trying to pull out of the water. But when he tried to move him, he was just hard. He was all muscle, and it was just really, really interesting to hold such a bizarre creature from the wild and be able to release it back. So that was like a highlight for me.
From the Michigan book [Wilderness Discoveries], I highlight sort of the two main highlights for me in the introduction to the book. And the one from Michigan was the Bald Eagle release and being able to see that Bald Eagle that was very, very sick and would have died if it had not been rescued and rehabilitated. To see that bird be thrown into the air over Lake Michigan, flying along the North Woods coastline, was a pretty spectacular sight. There were a lot of people there for the release of the Bald Eagle ‘cause it only happens a couple of times a year, in terms of how often they’re able to rescue a Bald Eagle, rehab it and release it. So it was neat to witness that.
In terms of funny, I don’t know . . . when we went to film the snakes, there are two snakes in [Wilderness Discoveries]. The one is the Hognose Snake which you saw in the ‘Dunes’ episode and the other one is a Garter Snake which we do in the ‘Transition Forest’ episode of the Wilderness Discoveries. And the fact is that Garter Snakes usually calm down very quickly after you pick them up. Individual [snakes] can be aggressive, but by and large Garter Snakes are snakes you can handle. And Hognose Snakes are notorious for pretending to be cobras and being aggressive. They will actually hood up a little bit and will fake strike at you, pretending to be a rattlesnake. They’ll even do that to the extent that if you continue to harass them or that you’re a threat, they’ll actually like throw up and flip upside down with their mouth open and pretending to be dead lying in their vomit so that they stink and you don’t want to eat them. They really do that! I did come across one in the dunes where we were filming, and it was pretending to be a rattlesnake and was pretending to strike at me and shake its tail and act all aggressive at me.
But anyway, so I’m writing the script for the show and writing into the script how aggressive this Hognose Snake is and how I was going to sort of watch it from a distance and talk about it because it was going to be nasty. And then the other script says about Garter Snakes how you can handle this thing, and it’s not that aggressive and it’s not that bad. Well . . . it was just the opposite. And so we have this Hognose Snake which is the most calm thing in the world, and I’m handling it and talking about it on camera and we had to ditch the whole thing about how aggressive it is because it wasn’t being aggressive at all. And I’m holding this thing, and it was really cool. It was a great snake to have on camera and handle.
On the flip side, the Garter Snake was totally out to get me. It was like striking at my face while we’re trying film, and I’m trying to deliver these lines because you know the shots they’re trying to get is that I’m trying to have my face and the animal together. So I’m trying to hold this thing, and it’s going at my face and it’s striking at me and it just totally freaked me out. So all the rest of the crew was glad I was the host that day because I was holding the snake that was trying to bite. So if you watch that episode, our editor played with that in the edit. We didn’t just edit that away; it’s in there. And so that was kind of fun and a challenge for me because my snake behavior was flopped from what it normally is.
But you see that’s what happens when you’re shooting with nature. I mean, anything with nature is unpredictable and you have to roll with it. And we had to roll with things and a number of times when things weren’t exactly what they were [supposed] to be. We couldn’t find Tiger Beetles the first several days when we were there [in Michigan]. And we were poking around at some other places I knew in the area that should have them, and we weren’t seeing them and the wind was just so high that they weren’t out on the dune. But finally the day that we shot it I said, ‘Okay I just need ten minutes here; give me a net.’ And I went out there, and I looked and I caught three. So then we filmed, and we were okay.
While you’re on camera, I noticed that you’re always wearing a backpack. What’s in that? Are there special snacks inside or something fun like that?
I carried a backpack on the show when I did Critter Quest!. It started there. But I always need a backpack with me when I’m out in the wild, so that’s not anything that I’m doing on the show that’s just for the show. The reason I wear a backpack is if I’m going on any kind of nature hike, ‘cause there are so many things you might want to have when you’re out there. And that backpack was loaded, I’ll tell you. It was not an empty backpack. It was not just a prop. The script was in there, a towel or a change of clothes if I had to change my outfit—which I did. So that was stuffed in there. Water bottles were stuffed in there, and there was an extra boom mic and anything that the rest of the crew couldn’t handle; they’d jam it in my backpack. I had sunscreen in the backpack. There was all kinds of stuff in that backpack.
It’s funny ‘cause I was teaching a class recently, and I had one of the boys come up to me afterwards and say, ‘Can you write down a list in my notebook here of all the stuff you carry normally in your backpack?’ And you know I put down a list for him, and normally I’ll make sure I have binoculars and I’ll have a notepad and a pen and a pencil to be able to take notes and write stuff down depending on what my purpose in going out is. I’ll certainly bring a field guide or some description if it’s bird watching or if I’m going to identify trees or if I just want to have an insect guide as a reference. I have some kind of identification guide, always sunscreen, always carry water, and for kids you know I always carry a knife or some kind of multi-tool to be able to do things—whatever I need to. I actually have a really compact rain poncho that I keep in there just in case, and it’s come in handy actually. And I bring a flashlight, bring a headlamp, bring some gloves in case you need to protect your hands from rough surfaces. So just a whole myriad of things.
And of course I keep a little bug jar. One of the things that I love to show the kids when I do presentations—and we haven’t had an opportunity to do it yet in the show—is to pull out my bug vac. And it’s a very bizarre looking tool. Looks like you’d be using it for cooking or chemistry or something. It has a long clear tube and a little vial and then a copper tube that sticks out of the other end. And you stick the copper tube near the little tiny bugs that are too small to pick up, and you inhale in the clear tube and it sucks it into the vial.
And so how do you not inhale the bugs and have an unplanned snack for yourself?
Well, that’s what everyone wonders. There’s a little mesh screen that separates the copper tube that goes into the vial from keeping bugs from going back up through into the other tube. So it keeps it from doing that. So I always pull that out when I’m doing demonstrations. ‘Here are like the tools of the trade, guys. Here are the nets.’ I talk about the different type of nets you can take depending on what habitat you’re going into. I pull out my snake stick and talk about handling snakes. And then I say, ‘Okay if you want to be really fancy, here’s a bug vac.’ And I pull it out and show it to the kids.
So beyond a wildlife authority or a naturalist expert, it sounds like you’re also looked to as a role model by young children. Do you embrace that responsibility?
Yes. I would say yes, that’s the case. And partly it’s because that’s one of the main reasons I’m doing this is because when I was younger, in terms of other than my parents, there were not any young men that I could look up to as a role model at all. And I remember identifying that as a young man and thinking to myself, ‘There are no young guys I can look to and say that guy is awesome and I want to be like him.’ There was no one like that in my life. And I was like that’s just really wrong. And guys don’t have great role models in the media. They used to in previous generations. They had characters like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger and characters who stood for justice and integrity. And you’re like that’s a cool guy who could ride and shoot and do all this cool stuff, and he’s a man of character and I want to be like him. And today’s kids have no one like that in the media. Especially young boys.
And so one of my interests in going into film and video production is I want to be able to provide content—whether it’s me or not—of characters and heroes who are worthy of being role models. And I remember one of the inspirations for me was watching LeVar Burton on Reading Rainbow growing up. And I felt like I knew LeVar because of how genuine his presentation was on camera and I felt like he was my friend and I thought, 'You know I want to be able to do that for kids, too.' And it is an awesome responsibility, and it has its responsibilities taking on that kind of a role. But if you’re in the public eye, that thing is going to happen regardless. But I’m in a position where I welcome that because I want to inspire kids, I want to encourage kids, I want to say you can be cool and conservative. It’s okay. And you can be totally cool and yet be God honoring in all that you do. That’s the lie of the culture. The lie of the culture is in order to be cool [you have to] ditch this religion stuff and you know be all liberal and anti-God. And I’m like, 'no, no no.'
So we need role models who can be God honoring and be cool in the eyes of kids, and that is something that I embrace. I love to be able to inspire young minds as they grow and develop so that they can stay on the straight and narrow. But it has been a lot of fun. I’ll never forget when I had a presentation where it was a boy who was in elementary school and was terrified of snakes, and I had snakes with me in my presentation and he was really worried about this. So I talked to him beforehand with the teacher and I said, ‘Okay now you don’t have to touch him. You don’t have to be near him. It’s not a big deal.’ And I always save the snakes for last ‘cause they’re the biggest wow factors. So I brought [the snake] out, and he was okay and he touched it and at the end he made a point to tell me that he was okay with it and that he could do it and that he was all right and that he really liked touching the snake. And at the end he raised his hand, and he said when he grew up he wanted to be just like me. I was like, ‘Man, that’s an awesome responsibility when a child says that.’ But it also means that you’re inspiring them, and I was inspired by certain men. It’s a joy to be able to do that for kids.
Were there any nature shows with hosts you admired that you really enjoyed watching as a child?
Yes, definitely. My initial show growing up was watching Marty Stouffer’s Wild America in the 1980s which is really not a kids’ show in a lot of ways, because it’s very much traditional documentary style with very flat narration and footage that could get graphic at times with animals attacking each other and what not. But I really like clued in to that as a young person. But the show that I would say really took me to the point where I wanted to be a nature personality myself was watching John Acorn. He’s a Canadian entomologist. John Acorn’s show: Acorn The Nature Nut. And he’s just a quirky guy, and he is hilarious. His show ran for like eighty some odd episodes. It ran a good long time. It was made through Discovery Channel Canada. But here in the United States it was on Animal Planet and also on TBS. And John Acorn actually has become a mentor of mine. I have been in touch with John since I was 14, and he’s been a mentor and has even helped out with some information and research on Critter Quest! and as well as a little bit on The Nature of God as well. But anyway John Acorn’s Acorn The Nature Nut would probably be my number one favorite nature show growing up that really inspired me to do the . . . well, he opened my eyes to so many different types of animals and creatures and things. He’s the one who got me hooked on Tiger Beetles. He’s a world-class Tiger Beetle expert. He’s just got me totally hooked on them. He has a song in every episode. He would sing. He wrote his songs, and he performed them. I could sing his theme song right now, along with several other of his songs. That’s what’s so hilarious … his name really is John Acorn. But he’s a really funny guy, quirky, really great sense of humor, and I think really inspired me a lot as a young person to pursue the path I’m on.
I can see how you would be inspired then and now in your work today. And speaking of shows, are you still hosting for Critter Quest! on the Smithsonian Channel or what is going on with that?
At the present time, no. Critter Quest! was . . . well, we’re hoping that it will come back. Basically, the Smithsonian Channel was in its infancy in 2006 trying to pull programming together which is when I got on board. And we shot several episodes for them, and they’ve been released on DVD. It won awards, and they’re available on iTunes and all that good stuff. But the deal is that since 2007 when the channel went live, they’d actually been basically focusing on getting established in the market. And so their financial resources have been pushed there. I’m hoping and working toward maybe getting Critter Quest! back into production, but at the present time I would call it a finished project. However, recently the Smithsonian Channel called me this past year and I just finished doing some voiceovers. They asked me to co-write and host an hour TV special for the channel down in Florida about the research the Smithsonian is doing in the Indian River Lagoon. And so Creatures of the Lagoon is going to be premiering on the Smithsonian Channel sometime later in the year and is another thing I hosted and I narrate and was part of.
What about taking what you do to an even bigger screen? Wildlife documentaries in movie theaters over the past several years have become so popular. Do you have any thoughts on that?
I would consider it. But currently not, and I’ll tell you why. The reason being is that looking at the market, I would put that on the realm of very high-end cinematic and even sensational filmmaking, ‘cause you’re watching you know like Planet Earth for instance. It’s like incredible extreme shots that took three months to get for two seconds. It’s really, really intense, really expensive and there’s a need for that. I’m really glad that nature filmmaking has gotten to the point that we have such high-end production now and that it really is top-notch stuff. However, there is a movement I would say amongst nature stuff at the moment to be sensational.
“Shark Week” [on Discovery Channel] is an example. “Shark Week” is sensationalism. Another mentor of mine, Chris Palmer, who’s a professor at American University, just wrote a book called Shooting in the Wild which sort of is an expose on nature filmmaking over the years and talks about how basically bad things have been done and the staged things have been done that totally jeopardized animals to get the shot. And in talking about that and in doing that it brings a call to the ethical and moral standards and animal-friendly standards for filmmaking, when it comes to filming the natural world. All that being said, I think that with the push toward sensational is that you look at TV today and where are the hands-on accessible [shows] in your backyard? It’s gone. I don’t see it. And that’s what it used to be a little more of, and right now if you were to base nature on television you’d say well I have to go to Africa or South America or the South Pacific or Australia for amazing animals and that’s not true.
And so the reason I’m not considering that path is because there are people who are way good at that who are doing that right now, providing the content for the American public, but we need someone who’s going to say, ‘You know what? That’s awesome but your backyard can be just as awesome if you know where to look and what to find.’ And so I feel that it’s my job and my calling to help children and families in America, in general, understand the amazing animals, creatures, plants, ecosystems that we have right outside our doors. No matter where you live in the United States we have amazing things all around us, but we often take them for granted and overlook them because they’re right here. We feel like we have to go far away to find something cool, and that’s not the case.
And so that’s what I did with Critter Quest! and that’s what I’d like to do with The Nature of God is say, ‘Look there’s amazing stuff right in your own backyard, and I’m going to show you how to find it, where to find it and why it’s so cool and why you should care.’ So that’s why I would say I’m not currently considering [wildlife or nature documentaries] because I think there’s a great need to understand what’s right here, and because conservation and biblical and environmental stewardship and understanding our call to care and tend to God’s earth starts at home.
There’s a quote that says, ‘In the end we’re only going to conserve what we love. We’re only going to love what we understand. And we’re only going to understand what we’ve been taught.’ And so it starts with teaching people about what’s accessible. If kids understand how cool the things in their own backyard are and that their backyard is a habitat and acts like an ecosystem and that animals function within it, that’s going to be a heck of a lot more relevant to them than saying the rain forest needs your help—you know, way way far away. And the rain forest does need kids’ help, but the point is they understand what’s tangible. Tangible is going to stick with kids. And so that’s why I want to do what I’m currently doing in focusing on what’s in front of children to make that relevant, make that important, because if they love what’s here, they’ll love other places and understand the importance of management of God’s resources.
Well, thanks so much for taking time to talk about The Nature of God with me, Peter. I know I kept you on the phone for longer than planned. So I’ll just hang up now and go outdoors.
This is something I’d love to see succeed and get out there for families and children, so I’m more than happy to answer any questions that you have!
The Nature of God is available in DVD, book and curriculum formats.
Consumer DVDs (*Approx. 30 min. each)
Wilderness Discoveries, Volume 1: Sand, Snakes and Screeching Birds
Wilderness Discoveries, Volume 2: Forest, Frogs, and Feisty Critters
Wilderness Discoveries, Volume 3: Bugs, Bogs, and Spiky Beasts
Ocean Adventures, Volume 1: Whales, Waves, and Ocean Wonders
Ocean Adventures, Volume 2: Fins, Foliage, and Shoreline Fun
Ocean Adventures, Volume 3: Winged Creatures, Waterfalls, and Wild Reptiles
Books (*include a bonus 15-minute DVD)
Curriculum DVDs (*include 9 lessons)
Great Lakes Discoveries: Curriculum Edition
Hawaiian Adventures: Curriculum Edition
For more information about The Nature of God series, please visit Zonderkidz.com. For more information about Peter Schriemer, please visit www.peterschriemer.com.
Watch a sample episode of The Nature of God here ...