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APW Conservation Club Shows Students the Wonder – and Importance – of the Natural World

APW Conservation Club Shows Students the Wonder – and Importance – of the Natural World

The APW Conservation Club has already begun the new school year with a series of exciting projects and events that speak to their passion to build a better world.

On Oct. 4, Leo Rode and Ben Trowbridge of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo attended an APW Conservation Club meeting. Their purpose was to speak on animal enrichment – the idea of improving a captive animal’s quality of life by providing them with new toys, challenges, and experiences.

Student members of the club were overjoyed with the event, which club advisor Jessica Halsey had deliberately kept secret to surprise them. Last year, members of the Conservation Club had made enrichment toys for animals in local shelters due to a grant from Hershey and Youth Service America. Hearing zoo staff describe their own efforts only furthered their interest in the topic.

Between discussions of sneakers designed specifically for elephants and the not-so-indestructible nature of toys for big cats, students were also able to interact with several of the zoo’s smaller residents that Rode and Trowbridge had brought with them. A tenrec (a small, hedgehog-like animal native to Madagascar), a chuckwalla (a lizard native to the American Southwest), and a pair of Madagascar hissing cockroaches were all in attendance. Students even had the opportunity to design obstacle-filled mazes for the cockroaches who, despite their small brains, still benefit from the effects of enrichment.

In the four years of the club’s existence, Halsey and her students have a lengthy list of accomplishments. Educational experiences like these are a major part of APW’s conservation club, but so are opportunities to give back. In August, the group celebrated the 50th birthday of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Sanctuary Department with a series of beach cleanups at Chimney Bluffs, Fair Haven, Selkirk Shores, and Sandy Island. Here, they exceeded their goals and gathered up more than 55 pounds of trash.

In the past, the club has worked to donate to groups like Partners in Conservation, the Wolf Conservation Center, The Hawk Creek Wildlife Center and -- more locally – Kindred Kingdoms of Pennellville, NY.

Actions like these helped to earn APW its status as an “Ocean Guardian School” for the second year in a row this September. The Ocean Guardians program – run through NOAA – asks students to carry out conservation-minded activities, present research findings, and reach out to their communities on important issues. APW students focused their own efforts on the dangers of single use plastics and their threat to the environment. The banner awarded by NOAA hangs proudly outside of Halsey’s classroom.

Throughout the year, APW’s budding conservationists will continue to work toward building better relationships with the natural world and the many species that share it.

The club meets every Tuesday in Ms. Halsey’s classroom.