Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Visit to Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School

On Tuesday, May 17, members of the Admin team visited two of Cape Horn-Skye First grade classes. There were approximately 48-50 students that participated in Fish Prints, and Owl Pellet discovery. Donna Allard introduced the team and proceeded with a video of “Bats”. Immediately the children were enticed. We split both of the classes into two groups, while one went to Fish Prints others delved into the Owl Pellets and vice versa.

I was in a separate classroom where I had laid out little foil-wrapped Owl Pellets along with little skewers to start digging away at them. The children were initially grossed out by the looks of the pellets (they were brown and truthfully they did NOT look like a pellet but as one of the children so quickly pointed out and said with a scowl on his face, "it looks like 'poop'! We discussed what bones of what critters may be found that the Owls may have devoured and regurgitated. Donna had provided an overhead transparency of the bones of a vole. After looking at what bones may be found, the children began to poke open the pellets and discovered the numerous little bones.

They found a lot of little skulls that still had the yellow teeth of a vole. One of the children found a head of a little bird as we saw a beak. The children gathered their bones and put them into a little baggy to take home to show their siblings or parents. Some were able to take the whole pellet home to do further discovery. Many children were so taken by their findings that they shared bones with fellow classmates. They were very pleased with their findings.

It was an enjoyable yet very busy morning for both of the classes; we enjoyed getting away from the office to share a little bit of what wildlife is out there. We later received wonderful and creative “Thank-you” cards depicting what they liked the most. That is what made the whole thing worth it!

Submitted by Mary McGrew

Monday, May 2, 2011

What do our rivers and mini-golf have in common?

Why, migrating salmon, of course!

For a number of years, the Fish and Wildlife Service has set up a "Salmon Life Cycle Mini-Golf" course at local events to educate the public about the journey salmon take, all the way out to the ocean and back to their natal streams. Last week, I had the opportunity to take part in this outreach effort when I helped staff the FWS booth at the Clark County Home and Garden Idea Fair. I really had no idea what to expect, but when I arrived and saw the mini-golf setup, I was very impressed!

Basically, you have to guide your ball (salmon) through five holes that depict the different challenges and obstacles salmon have to overcome as they make their way to the ocean and then back to their home streams to spawn. You have to avoid predators such as birds and other fish, make your way through a dam, risk being harvested by fishing boats and anglers, and find your way back upstream using a fish ladder to pass a dam so that you can get home to spawn. Want to see?

Wow - look at all that traffic! We were set up in the kids' activities section, near the "environmental interests" exhibits, so we had a lot of people visit our golf course. We had people of all ages, ranging from cadet fire fighters, to adults hoping to hone their putting skills, to kids who just wanted to have a good time. I hope that we were able to teach them something while they were having fun!

Here's me, trying to navigate my way through the ocean. Look out for that orca! In all honesty, I'm not a very good golfer. I concluded that if I were a salmon, I probably wouldn't last long!

This was my favorite hole. You have to get through the dam, avoiding predators waiting to munch on you for a snack, while trying to not to get killed in turbines. The turbines inside the dam actually spin, and you either get dumped out on the other side, or get kicked out altogether (i.e., you didn't make it). Usually, when I asked someone what they learned about being a salmon, the answer was "it's really hard". Yup!

There were lots of other fun activities nearby. Here, Dave takes a break from our booth and golf course to demonstrate the proper way to make a peanut-butter and birdseed pine cone bird feeder:

Way to go, Dave! We were also visited by Terra of Waste Connections, Inc. Make sure you dispose of those plastic bags properly, or better yet, avoid plastic bags and purchase cloth bags that you can use over and over again!

Aside from mini-golf, our booth attracted many visitors as well. We had a lot of items to give away - favorites were posters and coloring books. We also provided a ton of information on the local wildlife refuges, hatcheries, and work that the Service does to conserve our native species and habitats. And of course, we gave away temporary tattoos to those tough enough to sport the Fish and Wildlife Service logo:

I had a great day out of the office, interacting with members of the public. While it was a lot of fun helping people learn about what we do and how they can help, it was even more rewarding to know that there are a lot of people who care about the environment and how they can play an active role in conserving it. Next time the fair comes around, make sure to visit, stop by and say hello!