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.