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DON EDWARD NWR: Connecting Urban Youth to Nature Through Junior Refuge Ranger Summer Program
California-Nevada Offices , September 8, 2014
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Campers from the Boys and Girls Club of San Jose work on their Junior Refuge Ranger notebooks under the shade of an oak tree on the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Campers from the Boys and Girls Club of San Jose work on their Junior Refuge Ranger notebooks under the shade of an oak tree on the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. - Photo Credit: UFWS
Ed VanTil, FWS Maintenance worker, shares stories about his career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Ed VanTil, FWS Maintenance worker, shares stories about his career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. - Photo Credit: Aja Yee

By Sarah Mendez 

The Junior Refuge Ranger program was created by refuge volunteer Lynnea Shuck, one of the youth volunteers at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Lynnea is a senior in high school and has been volunteering with the refuge since 2010. She has worked with refuge staff to help engage urban youth in a fun way and teach them about the National Wildlife Refuge that they are visiting.

The Junior Refuge Ranger Program is offered as a program to the public. However, this summer we had the opportunity to turn it into a seven week program in June and July for 24 elementary aged students from the Boys and Girls Club of San Jose. We had two groups of youth from the Boys and Girls Club visit the refuge each week, each group had anywhere from 8-12 students. This was the first time that the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR provided two days of science programs for the Boys and Girls Club in the summer.

The program was designed and delivered with help from, Julie Kahrnoff, Watershed Watchers Coordinator with the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society, Tia Glagolev, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Instructional Systems Specialist, Allison Shell, Refuge Volunteer, Sarah Mendez, Refuge Volunteer, Genie Moore, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Environmental Education Specialist, and Aja Yee, Living Wetlands Coordinator with the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society. In addition, eight teen volunteers that have participated in a refuge program called Habitat Heroes volunteered their time by leading activities each week.

The program themes for each of the seven weeks were: Welcome to the Refuge, Nature Drawing, All About Birds, Citizen Science, Plants and Animals, All About Water, and Career Day. The campers did everything from plankton observation to making their own green cleaning products to owl pellet dissection (which the kids enjoyed the most!). They had a chance to become citizen scientists and make real observations about the types of wildlife that the Alviso location has to offer the everyday birder and the casual observer. At the end of the program, the kids were able to meet with staff who have careers involved with the refuge and experience firsthand what they do on a day to day basis, which could be restoration projects dealing with invasive and native species, trapping and releasing birds that threaten populations of endangered least terns, law enforcement duties to ensure that the refuge resources are protected, and leading environmental education programs.

At the end of each week, the campers received a bookmark with a photo of wildlife on Don Edwards NWR or a photo of the Environmental Education Center. All the participants in the Boys and Girls Club were given a Junior Refuge Rangers shirt and a Junior Refuge Ranger notebook on the first day of the program and each time they would come in, they would fill out the pages designed for that day. The most important goal was for the kids to have a good time while learning about the environment so that they would have a better understanding of why it’s important to keep our world clean and safe for all life forms, even the ones that are microscopic. In addition, the kids developed an appreciation for their very own urban wildlife refuge. That goal was accomplished and then some with the first successful run of this program. Until next summer!

Sarah Mendez is an intern at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge; this story was edited by Genie Moore who is an education specialist at the refuge. 

 


Contact Info: Genie Moore, 408-262-5513, Ext. 100, genie_moore@fws.gov
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