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Students Welcome Missouri Fall and become “Migrating Waterfowl”
Midwest Region, October 15, 2008
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Kelly Srigley Werner addresses the student assembly of Chester Boren Middle School to inform students about the Service and the role of a Private Lands Biologist in Missouri.  Donna Simkins 10/13/2008
Kelly Srigley Werner addresses the student assembly of Chester Boren Middle School to inform students about the Service and the role of a Private Lands Biologist in Missouri. Donna Simkins 10/13/2008 - Photo Credit: n/a
A 7th grader in Mrs. Simkins class playing the role of a
A 7th grader in Mrs. Simkins class playing the role of a "duck" migrating to Missouri from breeding grounds to learn the challenges waterfowl face during migration. Donna Simkins 10/13/2008 - Photo Credit: n/a

There were buffleheads, mallards, pintails, wood ducks, canvasbacks and shovelers in Mrs. Simkins 6th and 7th grade classes in mid October and the weather outside was fitting for the first major push of waterfowl migrating into Missouri from the north in mid October with cold, wind and driving rain.

Kelly Srigley Werner, Project Leader for the Missouri Private Lands Office, visited Centralia, Missouri and addressed Chester Boren Middle School in their general assembly to explain the role of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service private lands biologist in providing habitat for birds and the importance of Missouri’s wetlands for waterfowl and other wildlife.  The goal was to familiarize students with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System and then to discuss what each individual can do to help Missouri wildlife.  When the students were presented the before and after photos of private land restoration projects, Mrs. Simkins stated she was astonished by the unsolicited outburst of cheers from the students.

After the assembly, Mrs. Simkin’s and her 6th and 7th grade classes hosted a two hour learning session about wetlands and wetland wildlife.  A hands-on approach was employed to teach learning challenged students about the importance of food chains in wetland ecosystems.  Discussions and exercises included species adaptations for feeding and food resources necessary to meet life requirements through a food web challenge.  Even though our activities were forced indoors due to the weather, the students were no less enthusiastic and really enjoyed participating.

The final exercise, and the biggest hit with the students involved a duck role playing exercise to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the challenges waterfowl face when migrating to and from their nesting grounds each year. Each student described the kind of duck they would like to be (i.e., “big”, “little”, “cute”, “colorful”) and appropriate species were assigned to each student.  It wasn’t long before the mallards, wood ducks and other species were flying to and from their nesting habitats some being lost to urban expansion, hunting, or pollution, some being hatched due to additional habitat being created through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, plenty of precipitation, and hunter education classses.  “I didn’t realize that when I ride my four-wheeler that I am hurting the environment” replied Austin.  The students learned how important clean water, open space, wetland habitat and proper hunting ethic helps waterfowl populations thrive through their long journeys each spring and fall.  They also learned that Missouri has lost about 87% of its original wetland habitat and because it is situated about halfway along the migratory pathway for all waterfowl along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers they learned how critical the remaining 13% of habitat is for migrating birds so they can rest and refuel. 

Afterwards, students commented about what they learned.  Will learned “bird names like mallard and wood duck and how wetlands help keep animals from going extinct”; Shane was “…excited to play the migration game and learn about food webs and habitats for birds”; Briar learned about migrating birds and “wants to help save wetland habitat too”; Josylynn couldn’t “believe how many (different kinds of) ducks there are” and finally, Kerrigan understood that “we need to help the wetlands and the animals…and our environment to make it a better place”.

Helping children become better aware of their natural environment was a major goal of this 2 hour learning session but it was also designed to help engage students who have a difficult time learning in a traditional sense.  With more tactile experiences and role playing, it helped them better grasp the concepts of the lessons.  Mrs. Simkins agreed, “We like to implement differentiated instruction as often as possible, but this has been a great experience for all types of learners.”  Based on this first exposure to wetland study, the students explained that they didn’t realize how many animals depended on wetlands, like salamanders, ducks, geese, fish, frogs, lizards, turtles, deer and snakes but now appreciate how wetlands help wildlife, people, and the environment as a whole.


Contact Info: Kelly SrigleyWerner, 573-234-2132 x112, kelly_srigleywerner@fws.gov



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