Two distinct aspects of Schlitz Audubon are the Nature Preschool and our Raptor Program. Children who attend the Nature Preschool spend their days learning about wildlife, habitats, and the natural world. They also have the opportunity to learn from the birds of our Raptor Program. The Schlitz Audubon Raptor Program is comprised of 17 birds of prey and was created to educate the public about these dynamic birds, and their importance to the ecosystem.
Over the year, Preschool students form special bonds with a number of the birds, based on frequent interactions. By the end of September, every child has visited Sky Walker, the Center’s Red-tailed Hawk that spends most days in the Raptor Exhibit. They have also met Baron Von Screech, a beloved Eastern Screech Owl that visits them in their classrooms with Lorrie Giessen, a long-time Raptor and Preschool volunteer.
Educators Guide Students through Teaching Exercises
Raptor Educators spend time with students talking about the birds, explaining why they live with us and how we can ensure their survival out in the wild. Raptor staff pass around feathers, giving children an opportunity to touch their softness and discuss how the colors and patterns aid in camouflaging their appearance. Often, Preschool students surprise Raptor staff with their already established knowledge of habitats and adaptations!
Meeting Raptors in the Classroom
The deep hooting of Orion, our Barred Owl, resonates in the classroom and makes the students laugh with delight. When Dory, our Northern Saw-whet Owl comes to visit, children gasp with awe at her diminutive size, but still know that she is a powerful predator with sharp talons. Every year, the students also get to meet one of our Bald Eagles – who is as big as they are!
After spending the year becoming acquainted with the birds, each April, classes hike out to the Raptor Building for a behind-the-scenes tour of where they live and train. Students meet the raptors up close, including eagles, owls, hawks, and one American Crow. They visit the mews and even get a peek at the kitchen, where they learn that a raptor’s daily diet is far different from their own.
Inspiring Youth to Care for the Natural World
The Preschool regularly hosts a Show and Share, during which students bring something from nature and explain why it is important to them. After a visit with the raptors, one student arrived wearing a ski glove on her hand while carrying a Bald Eagle puppet! She explained that when she grew up, she planned to work with wild animals, in particular with raptors that could no longer live in the wild. As educators, these are the moments that make us proud!