Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wildlife Education Loaner Kits are rolling into a classroom near you!

From guest author, John Windau, Wildlife Communications Specialist in the District Two Office, Findlay, Ohio.

     Are you looking for a way to bring some fun and excitement into your teaching sessions? Well, here are some great opportunities to bring wildlife education into your classroom using hands on learning kits available from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife. These kits are available in the form of loaner trunks, and can be borrowed for two weeks at a time from your district office. There are wide varieties of trunks available, and each district may be slightly different, but here is a general guide to what you may find.

     If playing with, err, I mean using plaster of paris or air dry clay sounds exciting to you, then the animal track trunk may be right up your alley. This kit contains rubber molds for various wildlife creatures found in Ohio. But wait, this is more than just an art project. Once dried, these impressions can then be used to help teach children about the animal tracks they may encounter in the wild and what habitat types each animal can be found in.

     Ok, if that sounds too messy for you, how about bringing in a map and a bunch of figurines? No, I am not talking about Candyland, Dungeons and Dragons, or Legos. The timeline activity is an interactive way to demonstrate how Ohio’s landscape has been impacted by settlement and development. Have your students interact with the map, tree and animal figures to see what impacts humans have had on Ohio through time.

    Like playing in water? How about a stream trunk? Inside you will find all types of cool gadgets (that is the technical term) for sampling streams for insects, invertebrates, and small fish. Not a stream expert? Included along with the dip nets, magnifying glasses, stream seines, are keys and activity guides that will help you along the way.

    If insects sound interesting, how about borrowing an insect trunk? Students will enjoy learning about the insects living around them. They can capture insects with the included insect nets, hold and analyze them in the special bug jars that have magnifiers already included. Field guides and posters will make identifying the bugs another rewarding challenge.

   Not everyone is comfortable with insects. Another excellent trunk is the fur and skull trunk. This trunk contains a variety of furs and skulls from Ohio’s wildlife. Students will enjoy guessing what type of animal the furs come from, as well as feeling how soft the pelts are. This is a great opportunity to introduce and teach children about the unique characteristics of individual species. Also included in this trunk are skulls from various mammals in Ohio. Ever stumble upon a skull in the wild and wonder what it was? Well here is your opportunity to learn to identify some of Ohio’s most common mammals using facial features and dental patterns.

    What about reptiles and amphibians? These fascinating groups of animals are some of the most primitive on the planet. Their unique lifecycles and abilities fascinate students. The reptile and amphibian trunk contains guides and replicas for students to explore what makes these unique animals tick, how they survive, and why they are so special in our environment.

Any guesses on this species?

    It may not seem like it now, but spring is right around the corner. Doesn’t a nice spring walk listening and looking for birds sound peaceful? The Division also has bird and birding trunks available. Field and activity guides will help guide you as you introduce birds and birding to your students. The kits also include binoculars, bird song CD’s, and other materials to help you along the way.

    If you haven’t guessed by now, the Division of Wildlife has a wide variety of resources available for educators. These are just a few of the kits available. In addition, there are dozens of publications, programs, and activity guides offered. Contact your district Communications Specialist to learn what else is available and how to make arrangements for borrowing one of these exciting kits for your students. You can find the Education Materials Brochure and the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s District contact information at