Friday, August 15, 2014

An Educator’s Back to School List

by John Windau, Wildlife Communications Specialist

It is time for educators to begin thinking about this year’s lessons. The Division of Wildlife has many resources available to educators including professional development, loaner equipment and educational materials. Most of these resources are offered to educators free of charge. 

You may be interested to learn more about the Division of Wildlife’s professional development opportunities for educators from preschool through high school. These programs offer project-based learning programs that fit Ohio's New Science Learning Standards. And most are free or very low cost! 

For K-12, we offer training in the Project WILD and Aquatic Project WILD programs. Project WILD is a supplementary education program emphasizing awareness, appreciation and understanding of wildlife and natural resources, while helping students learn more about science, ELA, math, and more.

Realizing that early childhood educators are also looking for ways to incorporate wildlife into their classrooms, Growing Up WILD is the newest offering from Project WILD. Most instructors are also Step-Up to Quality approved.

All of these programs are referenced in the new Model Curriculum as high quality Instructional Strategies and Resources throughout most grade levels in Science. They are fun, easy to use, and don’t require any extra time or materials to implement. All can be received through a professional development workshop for 3-6 contact hours. You can find a listing of upcoming workshops on our website.  Just scroll to the bottom of the page.

WILD School Sites is another program you may be interested in. This program is an action extension of Project WILD and can involve any school property as a place to learn about and benefit from wildlife and the environment. WILD School Sites allow teachers and students to take what they learn from Project WILD and apply it to the creation of wildlife habitat on their school grounds. They can then use those habitat improvement projects to help bring real life lessons in science, language arts, math, and visual arts into their curriculum. These types of project or performance-based activities are very important in today’s standards. For more information about these programs, please visit the Conservation Education page

Materials from the Wildlife History Timeline
 Loaner Trunk
A wide variety of loaner materials are available to educators from the Division of Wildlife. Travelling trunks are a great way to bring wildlife education into classrooms using hands-on learning activities and visual aids. These rolling suitcases can be borrowed for two weeks at a time. Most trunks contain activity guides to help educators who are less familiar with Ohio wildlife to structure their lessons.

The Division of Wildlife also produces a wide variety of educational materials and resources, including posters, an eNewsletter for educators, life history sets, 12 different field guides of Ohio’s wildlife, and a Wild Ohio Magazine for kids. 

Again, most of these items are provided free to educators by the Division of Wildlife. You can find our Education Materials Brochure online. Or contact the Education Coordinator or your local Communication Specialist to find out more about these resources.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A little love for "that state up North" and why getting away is so important to kids

I have a secret to share...I love Michigan! Now, being a devout Ohio State graduate and fan, that is a hard thing to admit.  But it's true! And, let's be clear here, I love Michigan, not that team up North.  ;-)

People ask me all the time "Why do you spend so much time in Michigan?"  Well, for a couple of reasons:

  1. I have a dear friend with a sweet little cabin who is kind enough to let me crash there several times a year for a variety of outdoor adventures.
  2. Said cabin is smack in the middle of Kirtland warbler nesting territory!! If you've never been to Mio, Michigan for the U.S. Forest Service warbler driving tour, you owe it to yourself to do so.  Totally worth the 7 hour drive (from central Ohio at least).
  3. The fishing is fantastic! Smallmouth bass (my favs), largemouth bass, walleye, perch, and of course, PIKE! There's water everywhere and it's actually difficult to decide where to go.
  4. The birding is fantastic! Besides the aforementioned Kirtland's, I get to see lots of northern species in breeding behavior that I don't get to see down here.
  5. It's quieter, clearer, and just plain different every time I go.
So, why am I telling you all of this? I just got back from another trip, this time with my five year old daughter, Katie, and it reminded of me why "getting away" is so important.  Not just for me, but for her too! We left on Friday and came back yesterday to beat the traffic.  That plan didn't work out too well on Friday as the "cabin crowd," as my friend calls it, had the same idea. But that's another story.  By the time we got there, we were both exhausted, a little bit cranky, and a little bit tense.  But, when we stepped out into the quiet of the Huron National Forest, it's like it all melts away.  Even on a five year old's face, you can see how relaxed she gets just being there.  It's like all the stress of daycare and home life leave her little body in an instant. "Stress of daycare?", you ask? Imagine if you were a five year old and you had to go to some other place every day, follow rules that you have no say in creating, are made to do tasks that require you to think about and learn new things all day long, it's hard work for a little growing body!  So these getaways give her what I call a brain break.  And me too.

Once we unpacked everything and got settled, she and the dog just started running! If you have a five year old, you know what I mean by this.  At least with Katie, she never walks anywhere.  She runs!  She climbed out of her booster seat, did the obligatory potty trip, hit the grass and never looked back! She and the dog explored every square inch of the yard, the surrounding prairie plot my friend has added, the little grove of trees behind the garage, the ditches full of weeds along the road, every thirteen-lined ground squirrel hole they could find, the latter being my dog's sole motivation, every flower, every leaf, everything! And then, she was hungry. She eats better up there, she sleeps better, she behaves better! It's really quite amazing to watch the transformation.

Heck, even the dog had fun!

We later explored a waterfall, climbed a lighthouse, waded at the beach, took a boat ride and just generally relaxed.  We had some very funny conversations about music, food, her favorite movies.  These are things we never seem to have time to just sit and chat about at home.  We're always on the go, always rushing here and there to swim lessons, the grocery store, the library, work, know how it goes.  

So, getting away with just her is just as important for her as it is for me.  I highly recommend even just short trips with your kids in the summer.  That one-on-one time I'm sure is going to be some of her favorite memories of being a kid.  I know it will be for me.  Thank you to my friend and thank you to Michigan for being such a great place for relaxation. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

‘Tis the Season for Ticks

School is out and winter has FINALLY seemed to release its grip on Ohio. During the summer break many families flock to the outdoors to recreate. In addition, many outdoor summer camps are underway. However, before releasing children and family members back into the woods, be sure to take a few health and safety precautions against ticks.

Tick ID
Tick abundance is often localized in pockets and different areas of Ohio are home to different species of ticks, some of which may carry diseases. To learn more about ticks in Ohio, how to identify ticks and what to do if you find a tick, visit the Species and Habitats page on the Division of Wildlife’s website:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Rise of the Machines

If nature teaches us anything it is that there must always be a balance in everything. Day follows night; winter and summer balance each other; the relationship between predators and prey are always fluctuating but must always be in balance. The lives of today’s youth are inundated with electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and video game consoles to name a few. In contrast, today’s youth are less connected with nature and spend less time outside than any previous generation. The term nature deficit disorder has been coined and many books and articles have been written about it. So if nature is correct, how do we find a balance?

Father and Son Playing IpadSo the solution is, just as nature shows us, to balance and perhaps merge the two together. Today’s tablets and smartphones can play a vital role in introducing today’s youth to the outdoors. Tablets and their applications are excellent for recording data from field experiments and studies. Their custom applications make data sharing and transfer much more efficient than logs created with a pencil.

As a society we are surrounded by technology from ATM machines handing us our money, to price check scanners at the supermarket, to self-checkout lines at the store. Even the concept of a store has changed with the popularity of online purchasing. Technology is so embedded in our daily lives that eliminating it from our children’s world would likely do more harm than good. 

On the other hand, reams of paper have been used to document the adverse effects today’s youth experience from their lack of interaction with nature. The fact that you are reading this article indicates that you are probably aware of this as well. So giving in to the machines is not a viable option either.

Smartphones and their abundant apps can also help introduce youth to the outdoors. There are a number of uses for smartphones outdoors, one of the best being as a field guide. A single phone can contain every field guide you will need, right in your pocket, and instantly provide you with information at your fingertip. 

However, taking students outside is not always possible, at least not all day and every day. There are ways to utilize technology to help teach about nature in the classroom as well. A technology teacher from St. Peter’s Elementary School in Upper Sandusky tries to incorporate the other teachers’ lessons into her technology class. When the third grade class was learning about habitats and adaptations, Mrs. Dilley used a popular iPad app called PicCollage to merge the two subjects. PicCollage is an iPad app used to create picture collages which can be shared or sent electronically, similar to an electronic postcard. She had the students search for photos about habitats and adaptations on the web and use them to develop an electronic picture collage. To accomplish this, the students first had to understand what they were learning in science class before they could develop a collage. It required them to merge two different subjects to develop a project.

Ultimately, there is nothing inherently bad about technology. When applied properly, technology can enhance your student’s experiences with nature. These are just a few ideas on how to balance, or integrate, technology and nature. Of course there are hundreds of ways to integrate education and nature. A great resource and report on Kids and Technology and Nature can be found online from the National Wildlife Federation.

If you would like to share an idea of how you have incorporated wildlife into your teaching, please send it to  If we post it on the blog, we will send you a token of our appreciation. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Swan Song

From John Windau, Wildlife Communications Specialist, District Two, Findlay, Ohio

There are two species of swans native to Ohio, the tundra swan and the trumpeter swan.  Trumpeter swans are the larger of the two, both of which are native species of the United States. Although tundra swans do migrate through Ohio in the spring and fall, the trumpeter is the only native species that nests in Ohio. The adult trumpeter has snow white plumage with a black bill and feet. The young birds, or cygnets, are a sooty gray color with a pinkish colored bill and feet. The bill of a trumpeter swan may also have a red border on the lower jaw that gives the bird the appearance of wearing lipstick. The name trumpeter comes from the bird’s song, described as a resonant, deep and loud, trumpet-like call. In contrast, tundra swans, also known as whistling swans, have a much higher pitched call than trumpeter swans.
trumpeter swans and cygnets
photo from the Trumpeter Swan Society
tundra swan
Photo from the Trumpeter Swan Society

By 1900, trumpeter swans were extirpated from most of their historic range, including Ohio. In 1996, the Division of Wildlife began working on a project, in partnership with the Mississippi Flyway Council, the Cleveland Metropark Zoo, The Wilds and Ducks Unlimited, to restore trumpeter swans to Ohio. The reintroduction plan called for the release of 150 trumpeter swans in selected Ohio wetlands with a goal of at least 15 breeding pairs by 2006. This unique reintroduction was initiated to restore diversity to Ohio’s fauna and to promote wildlife enjoyment opportunities on Division of Wildlife managed wetland areas.

Today, trumpeter swans are classified as “Threatened” in Ohio and can be found in only 13 of Ohio’s 88 counties with 28 breeding pairs calling Ohio home in 2013. The Division of Wildlife’s trumpeter swan management goal is to increase its range within Ohio from the current 13 counties to 15 counties and to increase the number of breeding pairs from 28 pairs to 40 pairs within the state by 2020.

However, the chorus is not all radiant for the trumpeter swans. Another swan, ironically named the mute swan, is attempting to silence trumpeter swans in Ohio and neighboring states.
mute swan
Photo from the Trumpeter Swan Society
Mute swans are native to Eurasia and were introduced into North America during the late 1800s as decorative waterfowl. They have now established feral populations throughout North America from escaped and released birds. Mute swans were first recorded in Ohio in 1911 at Silver Lake in Akron where they were wing-clipped annually until 1934 when the birds were allowed to fly away. Mute swans are now an exotic, invasive species that threaten to displace native wetland wildlife.

Mute swans are sedentary birds that typically only migrate short distances when dictated by severe weather. Because of this, mute swans typically establish nesting territories 3 weeks earlier than trumpeter swans. Mute swans will aggressively defend their nesting territories against other native wildlife, including trumpeter swans. With only about 100,000 acres of marsh existing in Ohio, competition for limited habitat has the potential to negatively impact the success of the trumpeter swan restoration program.

In addition, mute swans feed almost exclusively on aquatic vegetation (up to 8 pounds per day!) In high densities, mute swan populations can severely reduce food availability for native waterfowl, uproot wetland plants and even destroy an entire wetland ecosystem.

Mute swans can be identified by their orange bill with a black knob at the base. Mute swans also hold their necks in an S-curve when on the water, unlike trumpeter and tundra swans. Despite their name, these birds are not actually soundless. They can make a variety of hisses, bugles and other sounds.
Photo courtesy of the Trumpeter Swan Society

Regionally, the populations of mute swans have begun to grow exponentially. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reports that, in the last 10 years the number of mute swans has nearly tripled. Without management of mute swan populations, long-term detrimental impacts may occur to Ohio’s wetland habitats and native species like trumpeter swans.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Do I need a permit for that?

By guest writer, Melissa Moser, Permit Coordinator, Ohio Division of Wildlife

Inspiring a child to enjoy and respect wildlife is an important endeavor. Wildlife education continues throughout our lives as we build upon our childhood experiences. Many of us have good intentions when we decide to use a wild animal, either alive or dead, to teach another person an important lesson. What you may not have considered, is how that animal is protected in the state of Ohio.
box turtle

The Ohio Division of Wildlife’s mission is to conserve and improve fish and wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainable use and appreciation by all. We are tasked with holding in trust the wild animals of the state for the benefit of all Ohioans. Wild animals, as defined by ORC 1531.01, include mollusks, crustaceans, aquatic insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, wild birds, wild quadrupeds and all other wild mammals except domestic deer. This means that these animals may not be taken, collected, or possessed unless you have specific permission to do so. Further restrictions apply to certain species of reptiles and amphibians and to those species considered endangered. 

Because wildlife education is so important, the Division has developed a permit that allows qualified people to possess and use wild animals for educational purposes.  A qualified person must represent an educational institution, public agency (SWCD, Metro Parks, etc.), educational or conservation organization, or licensed rehabilitator. The permit is a mechanism to allow educators to possess Ohio native wild animals, conduct monitoring projects, and may be used for both live and dead specimens. Possession of migratory birds or their parts requires both an Ohio Division of Wildlife permit and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Permit.

Keep in mind, you may use animals that are legally acquired without an education permit. These include fish, minnows, crawfish, and hellgrammites obtained using legal methods (rod,
minnow traps or small seine) with a fishing license. Legally acquired hides, skulls and bones of game species and legally acquired feathers and parts of game birds may also be used without an additional permit. 

To obtain an Education Permit, you must fill out an application (DNR 8953) and submit a payment of $25/year. The permit cycle runs through March 15th annually. All Education Permit holders are required to submit an annual report of their activities. This includes an inventory of the animals they have in their possession as well as a summary of what activities they have used their permit for over the course of the past year. To get a copy of the application or if you have questions, feel free to contact the Permit Coordinator, Melissa Moser at or 1-800-WILDLIFE.