The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Mobius Science Center have teamed up to offer a series of sessions to children and their parents on everything from spawning trout to aquatic invasive species.
The six-part “Wildlife Science” series started in early November with a popular session on spawning trout.
“It was fabulous,” said WDFW communications manager Staci Lehman. “We had a ton of not only kids but a lot of parents. There were a lot of volunteers and staff hanging around, too.”
A WDFW biologist talked about the spawning process and demonstrated how it’s done by hand in a hatchery. Some children were able to give it a try on live fish that were brought to the event. “Basically you squeeze the fish and the eggs come out,” Lehman said.
The kids seemed really into it, Lehman said. “They wanted to pick them up,” she said. “I thought that was cool because a lot of kids don’t want to get their hands dirty.”
Kirk Barber, a Mobius educator, said he came up with the idea to contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife after he read an article about endangered species in Washington.
“I had no idea there were so many,” he said.
Mobius does a lot of educational sessions on biology and science, but information on wildlife and the environment hasn’t been much of a focus, he said. Barber thought WDFW could help fill that gap, he said. “I was hoping for a one-day lecture,” he said.
Lehman was immediately enthusiastic about the idea of a partnership.
“I said I had so much content we can do one every day for the rest of our lives, so we put together a series,” she said.
She approached program managers in the department and asked them what they would like to teach. The next session on Dec. 7, given the technical sounding title of “Functions of the Riparian Zone,” will cover the plants and animals that live along the edges of lakes and rivers and how they have a role in water quality.
Lehman said the program will be led by a biologist who knows how to make the information easy to understand.
“She does bring it down to the kids’ level,” she said.
It’s important that children learn about the role the environment has in the health of wildlife, Lehman said.
“A lot of people talk about fish and wildlife, but they don’t think about where the fish and wildlife live,” she said.
Barber said he’s looking forward to kids learning about animals and their environment at the same time.
“We do a lot of dissections of crayfish and frogs,” he said. “We’re able to learn more about how those animals fit into the environment.”
The session after that on Jan. 11 will be on “Sage and Sharp-tailed Grouse” and the mating dance they do, complete with dancing and drumming. Lehman said WDFW has helped relocate some of the grouse from Canada to Washington.
“They put on quite a show,” she said of the grouse. “Their mating ritual is really, really cool. It’s an endangered species, too.”
Additional sessions in February, March and April will cover scent stations, Redband trout and aquatic invasive species. Puddles the dog, who is trained to sniff out aquatic invasive species like mussels, will be there to meet the kids.
“When the mussels are younger, they’re really, really small and you can’t see them with your eyes,” Lehman said. “Puddles can actually smell them.”
Lehman also typically brings things like animal pelts and skulls to each session that kids can handle. “We’ve got skulls, antlers, plastic scat, a lot of pelts,” she said. “Kids love the skulls.”
Both Mobius and the Department of Fish and Wildlife see a value in their partnership, and both hope to reach audiences they otherwise wouldn’t. Lehman said her goal is to teach kids who might never have seen a deer or a bear about wildlife. “Our goal is to teach people about the outdoors,” she said.
Barber said he sees the sessions as an important addition to the center’s educational mission. Groups from as far away as North Idaho routinely visit the center and educators present educational sessions at locations from Yakima to Western Montana.
“We get a lot of kids who are homeschool groups,” Barber said.
Admission to the sessions is free with Mobius Science Center admission, which is $10 per person. The science center is at 331 N. Post St.
“Whole families can have a fantastic time and learn about wildlife,” Barber said.
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