17 December 2023

Same city different communities

Written by: Leandro Cabrera

Two months into my internship, I've embarked on countless exciting journeys that have allowed me to explore my passion for nature in a completely new way. Growing up, I spent much time wandering through the wilderness, fascinated by the natural world. Thanks to the Hispanic Access Foundation and the USFWS, I have been allowed to take this fascination to a whole new level.

As an Urban Community Engagement Fellow, I spend most of my time outside the refuge, working on the Wildlife on Wheels (WoW) program. The WoW program is an innovative mobile classroom, funded by the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society Friends of the Refuge, that travels to various economically challenged communities and Title I schools throughout the region.

Through this program, we can teach children about the importance of environmental conservation and protection. As an assistant in the WoW program, I help students learn about various topics, including water quality, the ecosystem, wildlife, and conservation. Our lessons are tailored to each grade level, with various hands-on activities that help students explore the world around them.

For example, we teach students about mangrove ecosystems, the importance of water conservation, the dangers of pollution and plastic, and how to identify animal scat and tracks. We also help students discover many native and non-native plants and animals in Florida's unique ecosystem. By igniting their curiosity and inspiring them to care for their environment, we help students develop a lifelong passion for conservation.

In addition to the WoW program, I have also had the opportunity to participate in several outreach events to raise awareness about the importance of environmental conservation. Through these events, I have engaged with a broader audience, educating them about our crucial role in preserving natural resources. These experiences have been transformative, allowing me to combine my passion for nature with my desire to impact the world positively.

We will be starting our winter programs here at "Ding." These programs can range from a crocodile program, which talks about alligators and crocodiles, to a bird and reptile scavenger hunt at Lakes Park. Lakes Park is a regional park a couple of minutes from the refuge. Large groups of families are found in this area, and the site offers a range of amenities like an ice cream parlor and a historic railroad museum.

As part of the bird and reptile scavenger hunt, we will educate families about the different species of birds and reptiles found in Florida's ecosystem. The scavenger hunt will be an interactive experience for both kids and adults, allowing them to learn about the different habitats and behaviors of these animals. By making learning fun and engaging, we hope to inspire families to appreciate and protect the natural world around them.

My experience as an Urban Community Engagement Fellow has been incredibly fulfilling. I have had the opportunity to combine my passion for nature with my desire to impact the world positively. Through the WoW program and outreach events, I have educated and inspired people of all ages to appreciate and protect the natural world around them. I am excited to continue this journey and see where it takes me next.

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