Gardner proposed eight abilities or modalities of human intelligence.
People with Naturalist intelligence are inspired and rejuvenated by nature. They have a sensitivity to and appreciation for nature. The Naturalist intelligence focuses on how people relate to their natural surroundings. Naturalists have a special ability to grow plants, vegetables and fruit. They have an affinity for animals and are good at training and understanding them. Naturalists can easily distinguish patterns in nature. They try to understand how the details fit into the big picture (both deductive and inductive reasoning reasoning skills). They have enhanced observational skills with all their senses. They are aware of and intrigued by weather phenomena. They are good at discovering the wonders of nature. Naturalists love to walk, climb, camp, paddle and hike. They enjoy the outdoors.
Characteristics of Naturalist Intelligence
Some of the characteristics of those students with naturalist intelligence include:
- Physically/emotionally adverse to pollution
- Intense interest in learning about nature
- Dramatic enthusiasm when in contact with nature
- Powers of observation in nature
- Awareness of changes in weather
There are some children who seem to possess great understanding of the natural world, and who extend the boundaries of their understanding to both micro and macro levels. Therefore, it is very important for both teachers and parents to recognize this special talent and cognitive gift and nurture its development fully.
Children displaying “nature smarts” are often keenly aware of their surroundings and changes in their environments, even if these shifts are at minute or subtle levels. This awareness is due to their highly-developed levels of sensory perception. Their heightened senses may help them notice similarities, differences, and changes in their surroundings more rapidly than others do. Kids with “nature smarts” may be able to categorize or catalog things quite easily. As children they often like to collect, classify, or read about things from nature — rocks, fossils, butterflies, feathers, shells, and the like. Gardner notes that "such persons with a high degree of naturalist intelligence are keenly aware of how to distinguish the diverse plants, animals, mountains, or cloud configurations in their ecological niche."
Some primary examples of notable people having naturalistic intelligence are John Muir, Rachel Carson, Charles Darwin, John James Audubon, Jacques Cousteau, David Suzuki, Jane Goodall, Steve Erwin, Neil deGrasse Tyson, as well as a host of famous explorers like Lewis and Clark.
How does, or would, naturalistic intelligence differ from a more expansive intelligence — say, cosmic intelligence or awareness? Cosmic intelligence might be defined as the ability to recognize and discern both subtle and overt patterns in the activity of natural elements, other species, and humans. Cosmic intelligence would also include the ability to recognize universal connections and patterns. Or it might include an acute awareness of universal changes and the possibility of spiritual or cosmic links in which one is both aware and respectful of the interconnectedness of all life forces.