Kenai Wildlife Refuge’s PEEP program introduces nature to little peeps

Simply so you already know, there’s much more to being a purple squirrel than merely wanting cute and shaking your bushy tail, and a swarm of little youngsters on the Kenai Nationwide Wildlife Refuge Schooling Middle are about to seek out out why.

They’re gathered round ranger Michelle Ostrowski, and most of their eyes are directed on the small gadgets she holds in her hand.

“OK, little squirrels!” Ostrowski shouts. “Let’s go attempting to find our winter’s meals!”

It is September, and time for an additional session of Little PEEPS, brief for Preschool Environmental Schooling Packages, a free providing for teenagers ages 2-5 and their mother and father or caregivers.

Each month, Ostrowski and her employees spend an hour with youngsters constructing expertise needed for college in a palms-on format that feels something however bizarre.

It is an fascinating mixture, this pairing of federal company (the Nationwide Wildlife Refuge System is a part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) with preschool schooling, however one which brings households collectively to study extra concerning the wildlife round them.

I watch as the youngsters scamper across the middle’s carpeted flooring on the lookout for spruce cones, “nuts and berries” (small coloured pompoms) and mushrooms reduce out of paper. Ostrowski and her helper that day, Scholar Conservation Affiliation intern Travis Mabe, encourage the little squirrel-people to type their finds into piles –nuts in a single place, berries in one other, mushrooms in their very own particular stash.

Some youngsters rely the variety of goodies as Mabe and Ostrowski speak about what makes squirrels so particular, stating options they share with individuals, like tooth and eyes, and people they do not, like a tail and 4 legs.

Preschool as an idea is up for a lot debate lately, particularly in homeschool-robust Alaska. Questions on construction — sufficient or an excessive amount of? — make the argument as murky as Alaska mudflats. What’s extra necessary? Social-emotional improvement, or a “expertise-particular” kind of curriculum like math and studying? Attend an all-outside program just like the “forest faculties” which might be cropping up across the nation, or play outside for a set period of time every day?

On the PEEPS program there seems to be a considerate mixture of each, one thing Ostrowski says is strictly what she envisioned when this system began in 2010.

“It was a catalyst to my very own parenting,” she informed me as we stood within the schooling middle’s small kitchen space, watching the youngsters do a wiggly squirrel-themed music and dance with…

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