On the first day of my externship, I wrote down a few goals that I wanted to achieve by the end of my time here at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. As I look back upon these intentions, I feel satisfied and accomplished. A few of my initial goals included becoming comfortable with raptor handling, learning more about training education raptors, presenting a program longer than 25 minutes, and presenting a program off-site. I have successfully achieved these objectives during my summer externship, in addition to learning so much more than I had expected. Sometimes, these unexpected skills and lessons are the most important ones you’ll ever learn.
I had never before used technology as much as I have during my time here. While I prefer face-to-face interactions and outdoor activities, I gained a new appreciation for the educational abilities of technology. The Wildlife Center’s online programs and content have benefited the Center and students around the world in incredible ways. With the click of a few buttons, we have the ability to teach the world about wildlife and our mission. I guess technology isn’t so bad after all!
My absolute favorite part of this externship was presenting programs and leading tours of the Center. Interacting with the public and seeing the faces of people in awe of the education animals reminded me of why I became interested in wildlife many years ago. There is simply nothing more breathtaking than seeing a majestic animal up close. Every time I passed by the education animals, I couldn’t help but stop and stare. I am forever appreciative of these ambassador animals and amazed how many people they have taught about wildlife over the years. It’s impossible to know how many wild animals have been saved due to our efforts to educate the public, but I can imagine the number is vast.
For my externship’s final project, I wanted to create something that showcased our education ambassadors in a new light. One species that did not have its own program was the Virginia Opossum, one of the most unique animals that I have ever encountered. The opossum’s countless distinct features are usually overlooked by the general public, but I found them to be fascinating!
I decided to focus on this species by writing a new Skype in the Classroom education program entitled "Awesome Opossum Adaptations". This consisted of a lesson plan (incorporating Virginia Department of Education Standards of Learning), an educator script, and an activity worksheet for the students. As a product of the Virginia public school system, I see the need for this kind of interactive education that I wish I had access to as a young student. This program can now be used to educate students all over the world about opossums and the Wildlife Center’s mission. It is encouraging to know that my creation might be used to educate the public long after I have left the Wildlife Center.
Wherever I go or end up in the future, I will always be grateful for the lessons and skills I have learned during my time here at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
Thank you for everything!
WCV Class of 2018