them, like me at their age, it was their first time in an entirely new environment. Some were instantly captivated while others questioned the logic of leaving the comforts of home to live for a week in a cabin with bunk beds and daddy-longlegs.
As a counselor, I learned how to ease their fears and capitalize on their curiosity. I found that one interesting fact or story about a critter or plant could make a child view the subject in a positive light. I also discovered that if I found a way for the child to place the object someplace in the context of their lives, they would always remember the lesson.
One example involved a hike amongst sassafras trees. Sassafras root was used to create root beer, and when I snapped a root, the familiar scent of root beer was instantly recalled by the children. Furthermore, the children were able to identify sassafras by the mitten-shaped leaves because, coincidently, they are the same shape as the state of Michigan on a map.
My interest in animals led me to pursue a career as a veterinarian. However, as an animal science major, I worked three summers as an in-tern at the Cleveland Metropark Zoo. Though I was able to work with every animal in the zoo’s extensive collection, I found I most enjoyed talking with guests about the care and personalities of the animals. Once again, I discovered how fulfilling it was to share nature with others. So I changed course. My graduate studies focused on human-wildlife interaction and outdoor education in urban settings.
Later, I assisted with a study in Kansas City that evaluated how inner-city children perceive wildlife. We wanted to know if their outlook could be changed by an education program. We interviewed the children both before and after the program. Once a week for four months, the children learned about ecology with a focus on urban plants and animals. We discussed habitats, tree identification and food chains. At the end, we found that the children were far more positive toward wildlife. Even the children with the most negative viewpoints before the class had an improved outlook. This was important to me because these were children from urban areas and, like me, they were not afforded the opportunity to learn much about the natural world. After the study I knew that environmental education had to