As a Wildlife Ambassador for Reptile Encounters my days are filled with introducing students to Australia’s wildlife in fun, hands-on and educational shows, and meeting with teachers to discuss our incursion programs. Over the last two years of trying to meet with teachers face-to-face I have often come across a common misconception that Wildlife Incursions are just for Kinder children or “Preps would enjoy it the most”. In fact, all Primary and Secondary students can get just as much, if not more, out of a Reptile Encounters Wild School Incursion as younger students.
Of course there is nothing more heart-warming than seeing the wonder on a child’s face when they see a native Australian animal for the first time, have the chance to touch that animal and have the courage to stand in front of their class and hold it. Should that feeling of wonder stop at age 6? Or should we be encouraging students of all ages to continue to experience wonder in the natural world throughout their educational journey? Meeting a cute marsupial, overcoming a fear of snakes and seeing a crocodile up close are all marvellous experiences that can be enjoyed at any age, and this goes for the teachers as well as the students! These days though, we can’t do just something for fun in our schools, it has to be educational as well. I couldn’t agree more, why not have fun and learn at the same time!
This year I have presented incursions at a number of schools on a number of topics including: Habitats to Grade 1s, Minibeasts to Grade 1s & 2s, Classification to Grade 3s & Year 7s, Organ Systems to Year 8s, Ecosystems to Year 7s & Year 10s and Evolution to Year 10s. The Minibeast topic is a common inquiry unit for Junior Primary year levels, and our Insects & Minibeasts show is fast becoming very popular as it fits nicely into the curriculum.
At a recent Year 7 incursion the students had just completed their topic on Classification and were about to start working on Ecosystems, so their Reptile Encounters incursions proved to be an excellent opportunity to have a conversation with the students to show their understanding of Classification and introduce the next topic.
Speaking with the teacher before the Year 10 Evolution incursion, he told me that having a Reptile Encounters Incursion was better than a trip to the zoo because the students are more engaged and the students all get to touch and hold the animals. An incursion also is non-disruptive to the school day, and saves money as no buses need to be booked! Most importantly the students are actively learning about evolution, it’s a great way for them to introduce the topic and have something tangible to refer to later, eg. Remember from the incursion that Marsupials are an example of Divergent Evolution.
Seeing the happy faces of young children holding a native animal for the first time will always make me feel joy, but there is something special about seeing primary and secondary students be inspired by the wildlife, be educated about it and perhaps be motivated to help conserve our natural world.