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INNOKO:What was a USFWS Wildlife Biologist doing at the BLM Campbell Creek Science Center?
Alaska Region, February 13, 2012
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Dara Whitworth, wildlife biologist, shows kids how to make s'mores during the 21st Century Explorers Program at the Campbell Creek Science Center.
Dara Whitworth, wildlife biologist, shows kids how to make s'mores during the 21st Century Explorers Program at the Campbell Creek Science Center. - Photo Credit: BLM, Campbell Creek Science Center

For three weeks in February, wildlife biologist Dara Whitworth, from the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge, worked with environmental educators at the Campbell Creek Science Center (CCSC) in Anchorage, AK. It seems an unconventional arrangement, however; at a time where budgets are stretched thin and agencies are forced to cut programs and personnel, a little creative thinking goes a long way. The USFWS and BLM have a history of partnership; from cooperative funding of aerial moose surveys to working together to bring science camps to rural teenagers. This year, the Innoko Refuge and BLM are collaborating on a moose education project for village schools using data from an ongoing study of collared moose. The Campbell Creek Science Center is also helping Innoko Refuge with the Round Mountain Science Camp this summer, a multi-day camp for high school students from several villages in the area. These cooperative projects were the catalyst behind why a biologist from USFWS came to be working with environmental educators from a different agency.

 

Why a wildlife biologist? Why not?! As agencies responsible for managing natural resources, it is so important to communicate the significance of what we do to the public. However, environmental education is often one of the first programs or positions cut from the budget when money is scarce. This is where a wildlife biologist, with a particular interest in education, comes in.

For three weeks, I was fortunate to work with educators at the Campbell Creek Science Center to learn what it takes to be an environmental educator. I was able to study a variety of education styles by 'shadowing' several different instructors, some of whom have taught environmental education for over fifteen years. During the first week, I was given an introduction to the field of environmental education and began learning the science of education such as: how children learn, the theory of multiple intelligences, what is environmental education, how to do affective assessment of a program, how to design a program, and much more. The second week focused on developing my skills as an educator, by observing and participating in multiple programs. Through the diverse programs offered at CCSC, I studied the varied methods used to teach different age groups, from kindergarten to high school. The third week, I began teaching some of the groups myself and received feedback from the other educators. What a valuable experience!

The CCSC offers a unique opportunity to teach highly diverse groups of kids, and I was able to work with kids from under-served communities, diverse cultures, kids with disabilities, and many who experienced nature for the first time while at CCSC. I will not soon forget the joy the kids experienced when walking in snowshoes for the first time.

I cannot begin to describe all that I have learned through this experience. I have gained so much more than a new set of skills; I leave with a new outlook, fresh creativity, and valuable connections with people in a partner agency. Hopefully, this experience changes what was thought to be an unconventional arrangement into the way government agencies do business. At least that is my hope.


Contact Info: Dara Whitworth, (907) 524-3251, dara_whitworth@fws.gov



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