The Columbia National Wildlife Refuge serves as a great outdoor classroom. With diverse habitats and wildlife, having this area available as an education resource is a wonderful asset to students and people of all ages. Refuge education opportunities include presentations, interpretive hikes and tours. For more information about environmental education programs associated with the refuge, please contact our office at (509) 546-8300.
The primary environmental education program associated with the refuge is supported by the Audubon Refuge Keepers (ARK), a group directed by members of the Central Basin Audubon Society. Each year, volunteers present a wildlife program to third or fourth graders in local schools, as well as guide tours and field studies on the refuge for these students.
Classroom Program: The classroom program consists of a presentation introducing the refuge and discussing the different habitats and wildlife found there. In addition to the presentation, material for three discovery tables is brought to the schools; volunteers discuss the mounted birds, nests, antlers, skulls, wings and other material displayed on the tables. Students rotate among the exhibits, looking, touching and learning about adaptations, habitats and wildlife of the refuge.
Refuge Tours: Refuge tours generate a lot of excitement and expand students knowledge about habitats and wildlife. Along with teachers and adult chaperones, students meet volunteer guides at the refuge. On the “safari” through the refuge, students examine various habitats and observe some of the wildlife living there. Spotting mule deer, painted turtles, or great egrets is always a highlight for everybody.
After recharging with a snack, the second half the tour is devoted to field studies. Lead by guides, these studies can include listening to sounds on a nature walk, binocular practice while observing nesting owls, and/or a close examination of shrub-steppe or aquatic habitats. Although the Refuge Education Program concludes each spring, environmental education on the refuge continues year round.