Photo by LANA MICHELIN/ADVOCATE STAFF A brave Popular Ridge student is about to test the smelling capabilities of a red tegu lizard, as Earth Rangers presenter Julia Molnar looks on.

Furry, feathered, scaly creatures help Poplar Ridge School students learn about conservation

The Earth Rangers presentation gets kids thinking about making a difference

An acrobatic pine marten weasel and a sleepy red tegu lizard helped 200 Poplar Ridge School students learn about the importance of habitat conservation.

The animal ambassadors paid a visit to the Chinook’s Edge school Monday morning — along with a Harris hawk, an American kestrel and two human members of the Earth Rangers team.

Canada’s largest non-profit youth conservation group, based in Ontario, has five teams crisscrossing the country and talking to young people about aspects of the environment.

Earth Rangers educators Julia Molnar and Chris Gill gave their first presentation of the school season at Poplar Ridge School. And their enthusiastic grades 1-6 audience became engrossed with the scaly, furry and feathered creatures on display — especially Sonny the hawk, who swooped over students’ heads, causing delighted shrieks and laughter.

Bringing live animals to a lecture about ecology brings home the importance of wildlife stewardship, said Molnar. “We wanted to get kids excited,” so she and Gill introduced creatures that many students had never seen before — such as Timber, the agile pine marten, who scampering over a rope tied between two posts, showing off his tree-climbing skills.

Leonard, the tiny American kestrel, and Sonny the Harris hawk, established that birds of prey come in all shapes and sizes, while Crimson, the sluggish lizard, from South American, showed how her forked tongue could pick up difference scents. (She also demonstrated that lizards are not shy about going to the bathroom on stage in front of a giggling audience. )

The Chinook’s Edge school was nominated for the Earth Rangers’ program by an employee of Nova Chemicals, a sponsor of the assembly.

Principal Jody Dennis was thrilled, since she’s been trying to get the informative, entertaining presentation to Poplar Ridge School for several years.

Molnar and Gill’s multimedia presentation highlighted this country’s endangered species, the negative effects of climate change, and what efforts are underway to help animals through habitat restoration and conservation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was videotaped telling the children that they are not just the leaders of tomorrow, but are leaders today and can affect change right now.

Molnar said some kids are inspired to start fundraising for animal conservation causes, while others begin with small actions, such as turning off the lights and recycling. The point is to get students thinking at a young age about “how can we make a difference?” she added.

Grade 4 student Clay Christians learned that a pine marten can climb even while hanging upside down. But his favourite part of the presentation, he said, is when he and another student bested two teachers in a general knowledge quiz.


Julia Molnar of Earth Rangers talks about Alberta’s smallest bird of prey, the American Kestrel, to Poplar Ridge students. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Julia Molnar, a presenter for Earth Rangers, encourages Timber the pine marten to show off his climbing skills at Poplar Ridge School. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

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