“If you know you’re wild wise, shout hooray!”

Workshop for kids at the Gilpin County Library

By Patty Unruh

The CSU Extension held a workshop for kids on Saturday, May 11 at the Gilpin County Library entitled “Kids, Be Wild Wise!” The workshop was part of a month-long series of free programs being held to assist mountain residents in learning how to be safe with wildlife and how to minimize fire danger. The children learned in the way they do it best: by participating in creative hands-on activities.

Volunteer teachers were Rhonda Horwitz-Romano, Kathy Peck, Julie Shaw, Linda Craig, Janet Brown, and Debbie Benitz.

Although the group was small – eight children with their mothers – there was no lack of enthusiasm on the part of the kids, their moms, or the volunteer teachers. Horwitz-Romano drew the children in a close circle and taught them a song about what they should do if they encountered wildlife. The words, composed by Horwitz-Romano, were simple and sung to the catchy tune, “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” which most of the youngsters knew.

Through the memorable song and fun gestures, each child discovered what to do if wildlife gets too close: stop, don’t run, make yourself look big, make noise, and back away slowly. If a baby animal is encountered, such as a bear, coyote, or mountain lion, the mother animal will be close, and a person should back away, speaking calmly. Horwitz-Romano and Peck led the children and the moms in motions, such as putting their hands in the air, rocking an imaginary baby, or forming moose antlers.

Peck asked the children, “Why should you never run away from a moose?” One of the kids replied, “Because if you do, he’ll run after you and kick you!”

When the children had the song down pat, the volunteers helped them to make noisemakers that they could take while outdoors playing or hiking to warn animals that a human is near.

Peck shook a sample noisemaker. “What made that noise?” she asked. The young ones seemed stumped, although one girl did guess “gravel.” Actually, the noise was made by a mixture of bird seed and corn, which Peck said would be good for the animals if the noisemaker should break. She encouraged the kids to put their hands in the bird seed to feel the texture. Then the children decorated toilet paper rolls with markers and animal stickers before filling them with the bird seed.

Another craft made by the kids was an animal mask. The teachers spread out photos of moose, bears, mountain lions, and coyotes, and each child selected a picture, cut out the animal’s face, made holes for the eyes, and fastened the picture to a stick to hold in front of his or her face. They tried out their masks when they practiced their “Wild Wise” song a second time.

Kids always enjoy snacks, so the volunteers offered an array of ingredients with which to make trail mix. Some of the children had never had trail mix, and they learned that it is a snack for people, kind of like bird seed for animals. “But we won’t put any bird seed in it,” Peck smiled. The children had their choice of goldfish crackers, animal crackers, raisins, marshmallows, M&M’s, and Cheerios.

Following a final chorus of the “Be Wild Wise!” song, Horwitz-Romano orally quizzed the kids on what they would do should they see a moose, coyote, or bear. The kids quickly gave the correct answers, showing that they really had learned something. “You’re wild wise!” Horwitz-Romano praised them.

  Moose – back away and be quiet, stand behind a tree, never run away. Bear, lion, or coyote – stay still, get really big and get real noisy, wave your hands up in the air, walk together, don’t be scared, never run away.

  Animal baby – back away, you know its mother won’t be far away, if she sees you, calmly talk, and backward you should walk, never run away.

A ranger from Golden Gate Park had furnished some animal pelts for the library’s display case. The children examined the furs and skulls of a red fox, bobcat, and coyote. The kids were told that the fox had died when a dog chased it and killed it. “The dog wasn’t trying to be mean,” Horwitz-Romano assured them. “That’s just what dogs do.” The children already knew that when they go hiking, they should have their dogs on leashes. Informational cards in the display case urged folks, “store pet food inside,” “don’t approach animals or surprise them,” and “keep wildlife wild – stash your trash.”

Those attending the workshop were Kari Hanson, age 5, Bea Hanson, age 3, with their mother Beth Worley and friend Tatum Vernon, age 5; Allyson Webb, age 4, with her mother Angela; Riley Murroni and her mother Erin; Aliyah Boogaard, age 6, with her mother Cori; and Leif and Lily Svensallen, ages 6 and 7, respectively, with their mother Robin Svenson. The mothers were very encouraging to their youngsters.

The idea of a series of May seminars on living with wildlife was conceived by Julie Shaw. She was with a group of people who were out encouraging folks to vote when they spotted a whole family of moose in the Lump Gulch area. “They were hanging out in someone’s yard,” she said. “Folks in that area said they had been seeing a lot more moose and were concerned about the danger to kids.” She thought of doing the seminars and presented the idea to Irene Shonle, director of the CSU Extension, who thought it was a good idea and proceeded to set up the sessions. “We’re lucky to have an extension service that does all this – they are extraordinary,” Shaw asserted.

Linda Craig, a library employee, summed it up well when she noted, “It’s a fun way for children to learn about serious things.”

“Be Wild Wise,” sung to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

If you know you’re wild wise, shout hooray!

You know you can be safe every day.

We can live hand in hand

with the animals in our land.

If you know you’re wild wise, shout hooray!

 

When you see a moose he probably won’t see you.

Back away, be quiet, that is what you do.

Stand still behind a tree

And the moose will let you be.

But you never, never, never run away!

 

When you see a bear, lion or coyote,

Stay still, get really big and get real noisy.

Wave your hands up in the air,

Walk together, don’t be scared.

But you never, never, never run away!

 

When you see an animal baby, back away.

You know its mama won’t be far away.

If she sees you, calmly talk,

And backward you should walk.

But you never, never, never run away!

 

If you know you’re wild wise, shout hooray!

You know you can be safe every day.

We can live hand in hand

with the animals in our land.

If you know you’re wild wise, shout hooray!

 

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