Since this is my first blog post, I feel like I should introduce myself:

I am an almost thirty (eep) year old who has spent the last 10 years trying to figure out what to do with her life. I work primarily with wild animals (as a wildlife rehabilitator), and until about 2 years ago, I was terrified of children and students. Luckily I worked at a FABULOUS nature center (Warner Park Nature Center), where they fostered an amazing environment of learning and teaching. There I learned how to cater programs to each age group, and the children became less and less frightening. Although I absolutely loved it there, I noticed a lack of diversity at the parks and in nature. After some research and talking to teachers, I discovered that there were not enough resources for schools in lower-income areas to take trips to parks, and that families generally stayed within a few blocks of their home. Many of these children have never taken a hike, climbed a tree, and they run screaming when a butterfly flies towards them. One teacher told me about some 10 year old students that didn’t know the common mammals found around the city. I decided that I would figure out a way to “bridge the gap” between these communities and their natural world by developing programs that met Tennesssee State Educational Standards, and to make these programs free or of minimal cost (to cover supplies). I am currently working with one middle school, and four pre-schools on top of wildlife rehabilitation. Syracuse, NY has a similar program, which benefited the children, and resulted in noticeably higher test scores.

What I lack in creativity, I make up in hours of research, and budgeting! My goal is to introduce children in underserved communities to nature and wildlife, and to foster an enriching environment. Hopefully, some of these program ideas will help teachers who find themselves in similar situations.

So here’s a fun pre-school game for teachers/moms on a budget!

I learned quickly that books are the best way to introduce a group of students to a topic. So we read Birds, and Feathers for Lunch:

Birds on a stick (works for insects, frog calls, mammals, etc…):

I focus on wildlife found in our backyard, so for me I found some birds with the easiest calls to mimick- crows, ducks, owls, cardinals. It’s always nice to have brightly colored birds, so they can shout what colors they are. As I held up each bird, I played their calls using an Audubon app I was gifted (you can find the sounds online, or on Youtube for free), and then we mimicked their calls. With the owls and mallards, I talked about camouflage, and how male mallards are different colors than female mallards. Afterwards, we went around looking for birds. They loved screaming when they saw a bird (all mainly starlings), and they all wanted to hear what the bird they wanted sounded like.

Afterwards, we played a game… we’ll call, wing mimicking. I would call out and mimicking the way different birds used their wings. So, for example, I would shout, “vulture!” and we’d soar around with our arms spread wide, or yell “Falcon!” and we’d put our arms all the way back and run as fast as we could. And of course, there’s always duck, duck, goose! One of the classrooms didn’t have the space for this game, so the teacher came up with an amazing game of head’s up 7-up using a feather from a craft store to keep it bird-themed. Genius!!! (on that note, it is illegal to have a native bird feather, so don’t use one unless you have a permit!).

All in all it was a wonderful program, and seemed to go very well.