This post is part of of short summer series featuring blog posts from our Hispanic Access Foundation interns. Today, we are hearing from Ivette Lopez, who has been working at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut. Read more posts in the series here.
During the summer at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, I spent plenty of time outdoors at our different refuge and urban sites! In late May, we hosted Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. for Zeta Days, an initiative that encourages members to visit a national wildlife refuge. Our local chapter joined us on an island tour of the refuge.
On the tour, everyone learned about the history and wildlife of Falkner Island and Outer Island. At Falkner Island, we used binoculars to observe the nesting terns from the boat. Participants learned about the endangered roseate/common terns and their threats such as the black-crowned night heron and habitat loss. Then we sailed across Long Island Sound to Outer Island, where we toured the island’s habitats and enjoyed lunch. It was a beautiful day to be outside!
In June, we had youth from New Haven also visit Outer Island as a part of our urban wildlife refuge partnership. Every year, the refuge offers the Nature of Learning Program to schools across Connecticut. This year five New Haven public schools participated the program, which includes two in-class lessons and a final field trip to the refuge’s Outer Island Unit. During the months of April and May, students learned about their local wildlife refuge, migratory birds, and adaptations through interactive lessons. Some students searched for the invasive Asian shore crab on the rocky beach as a part of a study, while others looked through their binoculars for great egrets, cormorants, and other shorebirds. Other activities included seining for marine wildlife and looking at artifacts from Outer Island.
Aside from providing educational activities on the refuge’s island unit, I also spent a lot of time in New Haven connecting students to their local nature preserves and parks. In early June, Conte West Hills Magnet School first graders had their final expedition to the Quinnipiac Meadows Preserve. Over the last year, students have learned about different aspects of the salt marsh such as the habitat, wildlife, and food chain. Once we arrived at the salt marsh, every student received a pair of binoculars for bird watching. We walked down the trail, saw several osprey flying overhead, and used our binoculars for a closer look at the osprey’s wingspan, bill, and talons. At the marsh, students had a fun time picking up fiddler crabs and mussels!
Across town, third graders at King Robinson School have learned about the Service and our mission throughout the school year. For our final trip, we walked right next door to explore one of our urban wildlife refuge sites, Cherry Ann St. Park. Over the years, this site has been transformed from an area covered with invasive species and trash to a park with a playground, trails, and native plantings. Students toured the park and learned more about the forest, the freshwater, and meadow ecosystem. We also used binoculars to identify birds at the park such as the American robin, the cardinal, and we even saw a heron flying overhead! At the end of the lesson, everyone had a great time running around the playground. It’s been such a busy and fun summer!