Vicki Chunn's kindergartners are gonna go wild

Vicki Chunn’s kindergartners are gonna go wild. “You know the old saying about, ‘I can show you, I can tell you, but if you do it you will remember it?'” the Ripley Elementary School teacher asked. “I can show them pictures all day long. I can show them in a book. But until they get their hands on it, they’re not going to remember it.”
Chunn knows what she’s talking about. She and 21 other area teachers got down and dirty on May 28 during Project WILD, a six-hour interdisciplinary workshop sponsored by Blue Mountain College and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.
“This is the first of several workshops that we’ll have here,” said Dr. Johnny Mattox, chairman of the college’s Department of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and an associate professor of biology. “It has many different hands-on, minds-on activities that teachers can incorporate back into their classrooms.”
Though conservation and environmental education are the focus of Project WILD, “A teacher from any area could use some of these activities we’re doing,” said Mattox, who joined the teachers as they foraged into the college’s 100-plus acres of woods to learn more about animals and their habitats.
“Habitat is where an animal lives,” said instructor John DeFazio of the Natural Resource Conservation Service in New Albany as he had the participants line up, pick a card and act out animal behaviors.
“Now, forget about your animals and be groups,” DeFazio said, instructing them to arrange themselves in a large circle as representatives of food, water, shelter and space.
Earlier, he and Andrea Schuhmann, an outreach educator with the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, had participants leave their tables in a third-floor science lab and sit on the floor.
As they sat there, crowded together in tight rows, Schuhmann gave one of the participants a black bear pelt to wear on his head and shoulders. She used the opportunity to talk about scat.
“It’s a really, really important present, if you will, that black bears leave behind,” she said, explaining that animal feces tell researchers what bears eat and establishes their territory.
She also showed students a stuffed owl and a live, 2-year-old American alligator. Props help engage children when she does workshops with children, said Schuhmann, who’s based in Oxford and works a 21-county area in Northeast Mississippi “to basically bring the museum to them.”
When show and tell was over, DeFazio explained more about the seating arrangement.
“I purposely put you on the floor like that,” he said, to demonstrate shrinking habitats in an activity called classroom carrying capacity. “The whole point of the activity is to get students to experience that crowdedness and to understand that we have to think about habitats from an animal’s standpoint and a habitat’s standpoint.”
“This is great,” said Ann Adams, an eighth-grade science teacher at North Pontotoc Middle School. “I’m learning a lot of hands-on things that I can do with my students to actively get them involved. They learn better that way.”
Contact Ginny Miller at (662) 678-1582 or ginny.miller@djournal.com.

Ginny Miller