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coauthored with volunteer Kristi Freeman

As summer vacation turns over to the school year in Upstate South Carolina, we wanted to take a few minutes to talk about our brand-new educational programs for kids:

  • Our first-ever two-week summer camp
  • Our afternoon programs for Scouts and other groups
  • Our upcoming Junior Rehabbers classes

During these programs, kids get to meet us and our animals, learn something about what we do, and most of all, what they can do to make the world more humane for our wild neighbors. Read on to learn more!

The Izzie’s Friends Club Summer Camp

Each day of camp featured animal observation, an activity, and a book club choice. Read on to find out what animals our campers learned about and how our activities helped them to get a better sense for how animals survive in the wild!

Day 1: Our mission and a tour

A group of children sitting at tables for an outdoor class

Before we started to feature animals with our campers, we wanted to give them a sense of what we do at Izzie’s Pond. We walked around and they met the resident animals — with treats in hand of course! — and we talked about how every animal here has a story to tell.

Campers learned about how, with help from the general public, local and county animal control officers, South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), veterinarians’ offices, transfers from other rescue groups, or our own volunteer transport, both domestic and wild animals come to join us at Izzie’s Pond. Each camper picked their favorite animal, and we painted picture frames so they could take a picture of that animal home.

We read the book LuLu’s No-Nos by Bailey Rochester, which Bailey gifted to us after she volunteered at our friends’ Carolina Waterfowl Rescue. After working at the rescue, she saw how repeatedly animals came in injured from human related activities that could be so easily avoided. She wrote this book with pictures and simple text to show kids how easy it is to be kind to animals and not harm them. We really enjoyed this book and it will be an integral part of our future education programs!

Day 2: Skunks

Our campers got to meet our USDA licensed educational ambassador, Squiggy. We talked about what we do for skunks at Izzie’s Pond, and how to coexist with skunks in the wild.

Then the campers played a game, The Squiggy Squirt, to see if they could squirt smelly liquid with accuracy up to 12′ away… forwards, and then Squiggy style, backwards. The goats seemed a little jealous, like they wished they could have joined in the fun!

A child playing a target game

We read a really cute book, A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid, about a young girl who loves skunks. Today’s craft project was a clay skunk refrigerator magnet, and these kids did some great ones.

And as a special treat, the campers got to (very quietly) watch a set of skunk babies learn to forage for crickets for the first time! Part of rehabbing these babies and getting them ready for the wild is to introduce foods they would get in nature. Crickets and other bugs are a big part of their diet. The kids asked how we don’t get sprayed, and we explained how skunks don’t spray unless they are scared. So we told the kids to be very quiet, and as cute as it was, watching the little skunks pounce around trying to catch bugs, the kids did not make a peep!

A group of children watches baby skunks forage

Day 3: Bobcats

Our campers got to meet Millie, our non-releasable bobcat, and we watched some videos of previous bobcats that have been rehabbed at Izzie’s Pond and released.

The campers learned that bobcats are true carnivores and ambush predators, relying on stealth and surprise to catch their prey. Our activity reflected how difficult this is to do — we had an obstacle course where our “junior bobcats” had to wear a set of bells and hop, jump, and climb over or under, through trees and crinkly “leaves” without making a sound to ultimately pounce on their unsuspecting prey, the poor little stuffed bunny.

A child runs a homemade obstacle course

Being stealthy is much harder than it looks and an ambush isn’t that easy to pull off! While the campers had an absolute blast, if we had not had snacks available, these little bobcats would have gone home hungry!

We read the book, Baby Bobcat Goes to School by Merry and Lou Lewis, which explains how mothers teach their kits to survive on their own in the wild.

Our craft project was painting bobcat paws on trivets so the campers have something to take home that hopefully helps them remember this day. And also remember if they ever have any future conflicts with bobcats, that bobcatting ain’t easy and those Mean Kitties could use a break!

A grouping of paintings

Day 4: Raccoons

We talked about how raccoons are opportunistic omnivores and a species that actually thrives in urban environments. Campers also learned the many reasons why a raccoon may come to Izzie’s Pond, and what we do for them to get them back out into the wild.

Campers learned many reasons why raccoons don’t make good pets, and met all the owner surrendered, permanent resident raccoons including Dory, our USDA licensed educational ambassador for raccoon kind. We talked about human and wildlife conflict, trapping, exclusion, and how humans can take responsibility for their pets and their trash.

Children learn about a raccoon in a cage

Our activity today showed the kids how raccoons use their sense of touch to find food more than they use their eyesight. Campers had to sift through the “stream” to find food items, which they had to differentiate from non-food items. The campers really rocked this activity! Afterward, the campers came up with the idea themselves to eat their snacks blindfolded.

As a special treat, we brought out a set of babies that are just starting their foraging training. They’re beginners so they didn’t rock this activity quite as much, but if being precious gets you points, they were winners for sure!

Children watch baby raccoons learn to forage

We did a little freestyle crafting, where everyone painted raccoons on rocks to take home. The book of the day was Raccoon on His Own, by Jim Arnosky.

Day 5: White-Tailed Deer

This lesson was about being part of a herd, and how deer rely on each other for survival. Their very lives depend on their ability to cooperate and communicate with each other, and every single deer in the herd has its place.

We did some activities where the kids had to rely on each other and communication skills to accomplish a seemingly simple task, such as lowering a stick to the ground as a group, or carrying a cup to a bucket as a team. It’s not as easy as it sounds!

Children do a team-based activity

Campers got to meet our 3 non-releasable deer, Ruger, Luca and Daisy, and give them some of their favorite treats: apples and carrots. While meeting them in person was really cool, the campers could see the consequences of what happens when a fawn is kept as a pet instead of left with mom or turned over to an experienced fawn rehabber.

Our book of the day was Lost in the Woods by Carl Sams and Jean Stoick, the story of a newborn fawn that was parked by his momma. This explained to the campers how it’s okay to see a fawn alone and momma will be back soon.

Children meet non-releasable deer

The craft of the day was actually an enrichment item for our 30 fawns in rehab. The kids made kudzu wreaths, which they worked so hard and made GREAT wreaths… that the fawns tore up and ate in no time!

Children make kudzu wreaths

Day 6: Foxes

Campers got to learn all about foxes and what we do for them here in the Upstate. We currently rehab red and grey, both native foxes in South Carolina.

The kids got to meet our USDA licensed Educational Ambassador foxes. They also helped us with a fun, but also important project: creating an indoor habitat for some grey fox kits! Part of the project was making an additional enrichment item for the foxes, which the kids named Fox Burritos.

Children work on a hands-on craft

The campers also helped us create a fox habitat for some of our babies being rehabbed. Not only did the kids love it, but the fox kits love it too, and the kids actually got to see the foxes exploring and enjoying their enclosure, and how each item is also enrichment for little kits that are learning to be big foxes.

We read the classic book Red Fox at McCloskey’s Farm by Brian Heinz, which was a humorous twist to a real life human/wildlife conflict that many people face with foxes. In the story, the fox wanted to eat the farmer’s chickens. Farmer McCloskey didn’t have a predator proof enclosure for the chickens, and the fox could poke his head right in the coop! Luckily, the farmer had a dog that ran the fox off.

This opened up the opportunity to talk about our responsibilities as domestic animal owners, predator proof enclosures, and livestock guardian dogs. A proactive approach gives much better results than a reactive approach to keeping our pets safe.

Our craft of the day was painting a red fox on a canvas, and we found we really have some budding artists!

Day 7: Owls

Our campers got to meet Shiloh, our non-releasable barred owl. They learned about the different owl species native to our area. Then, they listened to different owl calls to see if they could figure out which kind of owl made it.

Our activity for today was super-cool, even if it was maybe a little gross! For months, we at Izzie’s Pond have been saving Shiloh’s “pellets”. Owl pellets are little packets of undigested parts of the owl’s food. The campers got to dissect the pellets and check out what Shiloh has been eating. The pellets contained lots of tiny skeletal parts of rodents and other animals in the owl’s diet. Our campers had a blast trying to identify tiny bones and many insisted on taking home their “treasures”. This activity was a great way to learn about what owls eat and how some of the things that are done to control rodent populations (e.g. poisons) can impact our owl friends.

A girl examines an owl pellet

Small animal skeletal remains

The craft for the day was a salt dough owl. Our campers helped make the dough and really enjoyed making their unique owls and decorating them.

We read the book, Screech Owl at Midnight Hollow by C. Drew Lamm. This story is about a family of screech owls and how the parents take care of the baby owlets, even while they avoid becoming a meal for a larger owl. The story helped our campers imagine the exciting things that might just be happening in their backyards.

Day 8: Izzie and Bennett

For our last day of camp, two of our younger animal rescuers, Izzie Askew and Bennett Van Every, got to share some of their special animals with the group. Campers got to meet snakes, turtles and tortoises, a bearded dragon, a hedgehog, a pigeon, chickens and even a scorpion! Izzie and Bennett shared with the campers their passion for animals – their incredible knowledge and enthusiasm were contagious.

The excitement of the last day carried over into our hands-on activity: tortoise races! A course was set up and campers took turns enticing our tortoise friends to race to the finish line to get yummy snacks. There was a lot of cheering and laughter as we watched what might be the slowest races ever!

Tortoises race to the finish line

Our final day ended with a party including ice cream and cupcakes. Many of our campers expressed their disappointment that the week was over and made plans to return next year!

These kids did a great job throughout our two-week camp. They worked hard, learned hard, and played hard, and we think they came away with a deeper appreciation for animals and their place in a healthy ecosystem. We look forward to offering many other educational activities in the months and years to come!

Afternoon Programs for Scouts

Izzie’s Pond had a wonderful visit on October 4th from the members of Girl Scout Troop 1751 in Clemson, SC. This group of 2nd – 5th graders is working toward earning an animal habitats merit badge and came ready to learn all about the animals and how Izzie’s Pond helps them.

The girls learned about Izzie’s Pond’s mission to rescue, rehabilitate and release wild animals and how the rescue is also a sanctuary for non-releasable wild animals as well as domestic animals.

Girl Scouts learn about animal rescue

During a tour, the girls got to meet many of the furry, feathered and shelled residents of Izzie’s Pond. They were able to observe both domestic and wild animals and learned about what wild animals might be in their own backyard habitat.

The group was able to discuss ways they can help wildlife and what to do if they find an animal that needs help (Spoiler Alert: contact a licensed rehabber!). At the end of their visit, the girls were able to meet our raccoon ambassador, Finn, and learned about why wild animals don’t make good pets – even though they are very cute!

This amazing group of girls not only brought their excitement and excellent questions, but also brought a donation of much-needed items for Izzie’s Pond. We at Izzie’s Pond would like to thank Troop 1751 for visiting and for their generous donation.

Join us for a special Junior Rehabbers class!

Next month, we’ll be offering Junior Rehabber Wildlife 101 in collaboration with Paws Animal Wildlife Sanctuary! The question for this class will be:

I found a wild animal…
Now WHAT do I do?

Students age 13 and up are invited to join us on November 9th from 9:30am to 3:30pm for a fun-filled, educational day to learn the answer to this and many more wildlife questions. To learn more and to register, sign up here!