Some of the children who come to Audubon live in rural settings not unlike what they will see on their field trip. In addition, some come with their school classes every year. It can be challenging to try to find something new and different, to elicit a “Wow!”
Yesterday I had a group that just made me smile. It was the ESL (English as a Second Language) class from a local public school. A couple of the students came last year. Most had not been in the US for even a year yet. One girl had just arrived from Puerto Rico earlier this week.
To these kids, everything was new. Things that other kids consider common place were absolutely fascinating to them and elicited plenty of giggles and squeals and exclamations of “Wow!”
Before we even left the building we had already seen many of the usual backyard critters: chipmunks, rabbits, and Canada Goose families. The local kids nearly yawn at these… Not so with this group: pure delight at each discovery.
The herps at the pond were the biggest draw. This poor frog was eventually caught and treated to high-pitched human screams. After the students made several failed attempts to remove the frog from the net and hold him in their hands, the rather large fellow managed to escape back into the pond.
One of the boys was determined to catch and hold a snake. At the spillway of Spatterdock Pond, we found several Northern Water Snakes. Carlos asked if he could pick one up. I explained that he could if he wanted, but… Northern Water Snakes almost always bite when handled, and they have an anticoagulant in their saliva. If one bites, you are likely to make quite a mess bleeding all over the place. He decided to take his chances… The female sat quite still, sunning herself on the branch throughout the entire effort. She was very large and apparently intimidating because Carlos ignored her and tried for one of the smaller, though more active males. Fortunately (for the snakes) he was not successful in catching one.
Everyone loves to check the bird boxes. One of the Tree Swallow boxes had 3 cold eggs. The kids were astounded that I allowed them to hold one in their hands. “They look like jelly beans,” I was told.
A good chunk of my job involves writing reports, keeping statistics, assisting with grants, recruiting and training volunteers, setting up programs, cleaning up programs… The most satisfying part by far is taking the kids outside and showing them cool stuff. The ones who find it familar aren’t quite as fun as the ones who find everything new, New, NEW… but sharing nature with children… it can’t be beat.