First Graders Get Environmental Show-and-Tell for Earth Day

Last Updated : 4/26/2012 4:23:09 PM

By Andrea Howry, Editor, Lighthouse magazine

“Who likes animals?”

With that, wildlife biologist Martin Ruane had the complete attention of 60 first-graders at Bard Elementary School in Port Hueneme — no easy feat.

Telling them a few minutes later that condors used to eat dead dinosaurs didn’t hurt.
Ruane, who works for the Naval Base Ventura County’s Environmental Division, visited the school Friday, April 20, and spent half an hour entertaining the youngsters with stories about the many animals that live on base and in the surrounding area and what children can do to help them thrive.

His Friday talk in honor of Earth Day was a repeat of one he’d done the day before to a different group of first-graders. As the father of a kindergartner, he knew how to find that right mix of show-and-tell and listening.

He brought along a bagful of “eeews,” like a perfectly preserved bat, some sea mammal fur and a bunch of animal skulls.

He talked about camouflage and why some coastal birds lay sand-colored eggs. He used words like “habitat” and was pleasantly surprised when several of the first-graders knew what it meant.

He stressed that people must never, ever go near or touch any wild animal, any nest or any egg.

That perplexed one youngster, especially after Ruane held up a Canadian goose egg.

If you're not supposed to touch them, why do you have one?" the boy asked.

"You know, that is a really good question," Ruane answered before discussing his job as a wildlife biologist.

“It’s a fun job,” he said, adding that he gets to wade through mud and collect snails, and that he gets to see — and smell — beaches covered with elephant seals.

First-grade teacher Mary Alvarado said Ruane’s talk was important on several different levels.

“Everyone is really proud when someone from the base comes,” she said. “And having someone come and share their professional experiences with the children is really important. They get to hear about a profession other than teaching.”

Also, she said, the Earth Day lessons are invaluable.

“This carries over into everything we stress about recycling and keeping the oceans clean,” she said.

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