Representatives from the Quogue Wildlife Refuge visited Ross Lower School to introduce Early Childhood students and their second grade buddies to a few cuddly, feathered, and slithering critters, and to educate them on how animals survive in the wild and contribute to the environment.
Renee Allen, an environmental educator, first shared a bit about what goes on at the Refuge, a nonprofit, 300-acre nature preserve founded in 1934 that is home to diverse wildlife species. The complex houses abandoned and permanently injured animals that require human care to survive, including reptiles, foxes, bobcats, owls, and raptors.
Renee explained that humans have a responsibility to protect our environment and discussed how our actions can have a positive or negative impact on creatures. For example, Buddy, the fox at the Refuge, was rescued from a local beach, where he was found tangled up in fishing line. Buddy’s friend, a bald eagle, has lived at the Refuge for 30 years; he was shot and has only one wing. The students agreed that it was important to have a role in caring for the environment, and, indeed, Ross has a history of engaging in tasks such as picking up trash and litter from our beaches and parks.
Other interesting animal tales highlighted the importance of researching animal behavior and care before taking them in as pets. One of the first visitors introduced was Spike, a desert tortoise from Africa, who was left on the doorstep of the Refuge six years ago. She can grow up to 250 pounds and live for more than 100 years. One can only surmise that she was too much to handle for previous owners. She is now quite happy living in the complex’s greenhouse with other hard-shelled friends. Students were delighted to hear that she eats cacti, hay, grass, strawberries, and watermelon (her favorite).
Students also had an opportunity to meet, touch, and learn about a bearded dragon (his neck turns color when he is excited), a corn snake (he can swallow the equivalent of a student’s entire dinner in one bite), a screech owl (a tree-cavity nester), a Madagascar hissing cockroach (she feeds on decomposing organisms), and Princess the opossum (a cute but messy eater who loves fruit but spits out the skins).
The visit was a fun and informative learning experience that left students with a deeper understanding of caring for their environment and its creatures.