Last spring, a group of 10-year-olds were out hiking on the California University of Pennsylvania campus with Sean Wineland, public relations chair at the university’s TWS student chapter and a wildlife biology student there. As they trudged up along a creek that ran through the campus’ forest, Wineland pointed out a large black rat snake (Pantherophis obsoletus). The students were scared, of course, “but I taught them that snakes are good for the ecosystem and can help control rodent populations,” Wineland said.
The hike was part of an environmental education program that Wineland and the rest of the TWS student chapter organized last spring for fifth graders from Brownsville Area Elementary School, a local Pennsylvania school. The chapter’s program was in collaboration with three professors at the university, Carol Bocetti, Sarah Meiss and Kelley Flaherty as well as the horticulture club.
The professors recently received a grant from the Department of Environmental Protection that allowed them to buy binoculars for the budding naturalists to use for birdwatching as well as materials to create bluebird nest boxes that the students could take home. The chapter taught the students about a bee colony at the school and also took advantage of a farm and garden on campus in order to teach the students about sustainable agriculture as well as buying local foods.
At the recent TWS annual conference in Winnipeg, Wineland heard plenary speaker Richard Louv talk about the importance of children being outside in nature and thought to himself, “I’ve done something to help out with that.” Louv’s talk inspired Wineland to continue creating similar programs to connect children with nature. “A lot of kids don’t get the opportunity to get outside and learn these things,” he said. “We’re exposing them to what’s out there to spark an interest in them and educate them more.”
|Dana Kobilinsky is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.|