A bear, a bobcat, a raptor and bones, oh my! Elementary school children in Smyth were awed by the collection of animals and antlers displayed this week by an educator with the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation.
Mike Roberts, naturalist and outreach coordinator for the foundation, visited every elementary school in the county to talk to students about conservation of the natural environment and how they can help.
Roberts told them about the basics of life necessary to all living things, including food, water, shelter and space. He described how the environment had changed since the age of industrialization and modern civilization, how animals were hunted and killed in staggering numbers and the natural world decimated until President Teddy Roosevelt (1901-1909) made a difference by creating protections of wild areas and a congressman and senator sponsored the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937.
The 90-minute programs, complete with quality taxidermy that included full-sized animals: black bear, white tailed buck, beaver, coyote, red fox, owl, river otter and turkey, along with furs, skulls, antlers and calls, are brought into the schools. Dispersed throughout the presentations are animal calls such as the barred owl, great-horned owl, wild turkey, and elk, to the delight of the children.
“You’re the hope of America,” Roberts told the children. “Every one of you has the opportunity to make a difference.”
“WBWF provides youth outdoor education experiences that range from camping and land projects to hunting, fishing, and much more in an effort to expose children to the endless opportunities to enjoy Mother Nature,” states the foundation on its website. “Our hope is in some small way we reach some of the next generation so that they will grow into adults who care about the environment and pass on these values to their children.”
The mission of the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation is to conserve America’s land and wildlife through wise stewardship, while educating children and adults about the natural resources that will shape America’s future. The program focuses on land management, those who help protect and conserve the natural environment, the next generation, and conservation of land around military bases.
Ward Burton and his foundation have established partnerships with a number of conservation agencies that provide experience in natural resources and land management and working in the state since 1996.
Roberts spent January through May delivering the new youth education initiative, called Next Generation Outreach, to schools in southern Virginia, and is now in Southwest Virginia. The natural resource conservation, environmental science and wildlife message is filled with information that students will be tested on in their science Standards of Learning and reinforces, in a hands-on, exciting and visual way the lesson plans prepared by elementary science teachers.
Roberts began the fall/winter semester of educational programs this week in Smyth County, with his first visit to Marion Elementary School. He visited two schools per day through Friday.
After Smyth, Roberts will visit Washington, Tazewell, Dickenson, Buchanan, Russell, Lee, Scott and Wise county schools. The foundation will deliver close to 60 programs in Southwest Virginia reaching a minimum of 6,000 students and teachers.
Learn more about the foundation at http://www.twbwf.org/