Tag Archives: cortland

That's me, Bethany, giving the Great Migration Challenge activity instructions. Credit: USFWS

Migration — It’s risky business!

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

Have you ever wished you were a bird, just to know what it would be like to truly fly? Do you like to “migrate” from the cold New York winters to warmer southern weather?

If you answered yes, then you would have enjoyed spending the day with me and over 270 sixth graders who learned about bird migration at the Cortland Conservation Field Days at the end of September.

The event pulled in 15 different conservation educators to prepare 20-minute programs for student groups at the 4H Camp Owahta in McGraw, N.Y.

Students from 10 Cortland County schools spent the day cycling through stations listening to presentations about topics like wetlands, food, wildlife, forests, orienteering, composting, and much more.

At our New York Field Office station, students learned about the “helps and hazards” associated with migration in an activity called the Great Migration Challenge.

Students thought and acted like birds by following a series of cards that took them on a migration route of their own.

That's me, Bethany, giving the Great Migration Challenge activity instructions. Credit: USFWS

That’s me, Bethany, giving the Great Migration Challenge activity instructions. Credit: USFWS

Here’s how it worked:

The Great Migration Challenge activity instructions. Photo credit: USFWS

The Great Migration Challenge activity instructions. Photo credit: USFWS

  • Each student selects a partner and a bird as which they’ll act.
  • Students start their migration journey by rolling a die to direct them to one of the 24 stations set up around the room, each with a different activity card. Each card explains a scenario, and then directs students to the next stop on their migration journey. One card read, “You get tangled in fishing line and can’t eat. You are weak from hunger. A wildlife rehabilitator cuts the line and feeds you. Hop on 1 leg in a circle, count to 40, then move ahead 4 stations.”
  • Students continue selecting cards and moving to the appropriate station until they reach a station that either kills the bird (disease, guns, cats, etc.) or sends it to the finish after reaching the migration destination.
  • After, students rejoin the rest of the class and discuss the factors that helped them on their migration journeys, as well as others that were hazardous to their journeys.

The kids enjoyed the program because they were able to jump, run, and act silly, while the teachers enjoyed the program because it provided students with a hands-on way to learn (and get their energy out!).

test

Students picked one of the bird cards, and when they were finished with their journey, an instructor helped fill in the results chart shown here.

Interested in the activity? Find the instructions and all necessary materials in the attached PDFs from the Flying Wild Educator’s Guide. Visit the Flying Wild website to find additional resources.

Great Migration Challenge materials:

More photos from the Ithaca Children's Garden. Credit: David Stilwell/USFWS

Who says playing in the mud is just for kids?

International Mud Day at the Ithaca Children's Garden! Credit: Rusty Keeler

International Mud Day at the Ithaca Children’s Garden! Credit: Rusty Keeler, Ithaca Children’s Garden

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

“Don’t you come home dirty,” my mom said with a stern look as my adolescent self bounced off with my neighborhood friends.

Hours later, I returned scuffed up and in need of a shower.

We all have memories like that, right? Well… I’m here to tell you to play in the mud!

Getting messy in the mud encourages people to get outdoors, play in nature and create happy memories with nature.

Not convinced that the mess is worth it? I wasn’t either, until I spent International Mud Day June 30 at the Ithaca Children’s Garden. More than 600 children, teenagers and adults had come together to climb, slide and splash in 48 cubic yards of dirt hosed down by the Ithaca Fire Department to create mud mountains and a giant mud pool. While the majority of mud seekers were children, teenagers and adults were quick to jump in the action as well.

The event featured mud-themed food, with selections like “mud” cheesecake, and mud (chocolate) or maple sno-cones. Children concocted their own muddy recipes in the fully stocked mud kitchen, created cob sculptures, or listened to stories from storyteller Regi Carpenter. Others could be found at the photo booth, showcasing their messy progress in “before” and “after” pictures

While we were getting dirty in New York, I learned that the idea for Mud Day emerged several years ago on the other side of the globe. Attendees at the 2009 World Forum for Early Childhood Care and Education learned that a group of children in a Nepal orphanage could not play in the mud because they did not have an extra set of clothing — and no money to buy soap to wash the single outfit.

After the forum, the story was presented to school children in Australia who wanted to help the children in Nepal by sending them money to buy clothing and food. The children in Australia were so inspired by the story that they decided to have their own Mud Day as a way of celebrating with the children in Nepal.

In both countries, children were hesitant about jumping in the mud, but after an event organizer jumped in for assurance, and curiosity built up, children were quick to jump, splash and play in the mud as intended. Mud Day has since become an international event, and is celebrated locally as a way of encouraging people to play in nature.

Mud play and outdoor play in general are actually very important to the development of a child, both mentally and physically. Not only do children create happy memories with nature, but exposure to microbes in the soil can help children build immune strength.

Mud Day event planners in Ithaca were hoping to expose these mind and body benefits to children and adults, and help guests overcome the “need to be clean” mentality.

Families dressed in all white came back to the photo booth completely brown; but even more exciting for me was seeing those families play TOGETHER. Children are usually discouraged from getting dirty, so to see a parent not only allow their child to get muddy, but also jump in the mud with them was an amazing sight.

Mud Day participation and acceptance by parents dramatically improved from last year, as parents this year encouraged their children to get dirty. Credit: David Stilwell/USFWS

Mud Day participation and acceptance by parents dramatically improved from last year, as parents this year encouraged their children to get dirty. Credit: David Stilwell/USFWS

As I mentioned, I admit I was slightly hesitant to jump in and completely submerge myself in the mud pit. That was, until I looked over to see my boss completely covered in mud!

The cool mud felt great against the hot sun. I felt comfortable and relaxed in the mud — so much so that I signed up for a 5K mud run a few weeks later (and funny enough, the 5k participants were mostly adults who just wanted to get a little dirty).

A shot of the mud hill at Ithaca Children's Garden. Credit: Rusty Keeler, Ithaca Children’s Garden

A shot of the mud hill at Ithaca Children’s Garden. Credit: Rusty Keeler, Ithaca Children’s Garden

The next time you have the opportunity to get muddy, I highly encourage you to do so. Jump in mud puddles, run a muddy race, or attend Mud Day next year! Whatever you decide to do, I guarantee you will feel great afterward.

Let go of the mud aversion, and embrace the mucky mess waiting for you.

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

Hailing from the New York Field Office!

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

I drove into work on a warm morning in June, dazed by my long, monotonous route and the heavy fog that settled across the winding roads in Cortland County.

Halfway to the office, I was lifted from my trance by the sun emerging from the clouds. The fog dissipated into a thin sheet above the valley, and the birds erupted into an orchestra of morning songs. I could see deer feeding in the adjacent field. A woodchuck cautiously approached the road ahead, but quickly retreated back to the woods once he heard me coming.

The morning air was crisp as I rolled down my window to take it all in. In an instant, my dreary ride to work became an awe-inspiring feeling of freedom. My frustration and my dreariness instantly vanished as I slowly toured the back-country roads of Cortland County.

It’s moments like this that make my job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service even more valuable. My work helps ensure that others can partake in such invigorating experiences. I take part in state-wide conservation efforts – and get to see firsthand how they are enhancing resources for wildlife. The entire experience has made me more receptive to wildlife, and much more intrigued by my surroundings.

New York Field Office sign and building

Credit: USFWS

My year-long position with the Service’s New York Field Office started this summer and has already covered the typical agenda, such as traveling to wetlands in southeastern New York to do bog turtle surveys, visiting wetland restoration sites, and planning and participating in hands-on celebrations like Mud Day! So…maybe my job is a little a-typical. But our agency is constantly involved with exciting projects in the field of conservation, and my job at the field office is to share this work with our partners and communities.

I am a recent graduate of the New York State College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where I received a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies – communication, culture and writing. For the next year, I will bring you along on my adventures in the work of conservation. You’ll see through the field biologist’s eyes, but without all the muck, the flies, the sweating, long hours of data collection…you get my drift (but that’s where the fun is at!).

And of course, there will be plenty of pictures and videos to document these adventures along the way.

Mud Day Celebration at the Ithaca Children’s Garden in Ithaca, N.Y. Credit: USFWS

International Mud Day is celebrated by thousands of children in dozens of countries worldwide as a chance to celebrate nature and the great outdoors by getting muddy. Here’s a shot from the Mud Day Celebration at the Ithaca Children’s Garden in Ithaca, N.Y. Credit: USFWS

Conservation can be truly exciting, especially as you begin to read and understand all of the practices involved in protecting wildlife. These behind-the-scene stories may even influence you to adopt a sense of curiosity in conservation, as it has in me. Familiarizing yourself and even getting involved with conservation efforts can give you a whole new perspective on wildlife.

I hope you will connect with these stories and share that experience with others.