It’s been hard to tell who’s had the most fun during DEAR’s classroom presentations.  Students enjoyed becoming part of a real food web and understanding how everything in an ecosystem is dependent on almost everything else there.  Who would have thought that a prairie dog, for example, could provide food and shelter for countless other animals?

Through DEAR’s classroom activities, students grasped the importance of every little bit of an ecosystem as they learned how important every plant and animal is in a healthy ecosystem.  Volunteers were thrilled when students eagerly suggested things they could do to protect the deserts around us and even how they could make a difference for the entire planet by doing simple things like recycling and using less plastic bags and water bottles.

During class discussions, we list students’ ideas for helping the environment, and before we knew it, our lists had covered the classrooms’ entire white boards.

Our goal is to create presentations to complement existing curriculums.  We started with 5th graders because they do a lot of work with food webs and ecosystems.  Students at Scenic Elementary complete huge research projects on birds of prey and make some impressive models to correspond with their presentations.

Our presentation enhanced what the kids were already doing by providing hands-on experience with some of the concepts such as food webs which they had just learned about in books.  We brought in all sorts of artifacts from our local landscape including taxidermied animals, live plants, and a collection of rocks and fossils and offered an interactive slideshow for students.  This all created quite a stir and left students and teachers from other grades asking whom we are and if we could offer presentations related to their classroom activities.

One teacher mentioned a second grade unit on soil and requested that we offer some sort of activity to make the topic more entertaining and therefore, more impacting to students.  This teacher was pleased to hear that that is exactly what our goal is.  We are eager to reach as many students as possible and will gladly adapt our program to meet the needs of students of all ages.  We can help teachers meet specific classroom requirements but can also provide some simple, fun entertainment.

One volunteer has adopted a taxidermied coyote and a skunk which she plans to bring along every time she visits students.  Not only will the taxidermied animals provide kids with hands-on opportunities to appreciate the animals, but they’ll provide nice companions for stories she reads to younger students featuring coyotes and skunks.