Kimberly Ridley at Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge with Charlotte Elementary

A beautiful day for nature observation at Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge.

This fall, IRW has been shaking things up by taking our author programs out of the classroom and out into nature! On Oct. 22, the entire Charlotte Elementary School moved to the Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge near Baring Plantation in Washington County where we met with author Kimberly Ridley and biology technician Clayton Merrill. The school bus transformed into a tour bus as we explored this habitat created for the American Woodcock.

The first stop on the tour was to view a beaver dam and lodge. With pencils and homemade sketchbooks in hand, the kids used their observation skills to make notes of what they noticed.

There were interesting things to see everywhere.

An otter slide was discovered near the dam which drew great interest! The pencils were flying furiously as rough sketches were drawn and notes were jotted down. Clayton focused in on some black ducks on the pond using a spotting scope. It wasn’t long though before they burst into flight and zoomed right over our heads!

The kids used notepads to write and sketch their observations to use later in the day.

Sometimes, observations were made from the bus seats with “tour guide Kim” giving clues to what they might see. Another flock of ducks was spotted and took flight and a group of Canada Geese floated in a second pond. Clayton shared that two black bears were living in the area, a fact that was greeted with big “ooohs” and “aaahhs.”

Tour Guide Kim!

Back in the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) building, which served as headquarters for the day, some serious brainstorming took place. “What did you notice?” Kim asked. A blank poster for observation was filled. “What do you wonder?” Two posters for curiosities were filled. And, “What did it remind you of?” — another poster filled.

All of this brainstorming work was done to inspire creative thinking and, as a whole school, write a rough draft for “The Secret Refuge,” a book in the style of Kimberly Ridley, but written entirely by Charlotte students! To really get their creative juices flowing, the writers and artists next used water color pencils and paper to use their knowledge from observations and notes to inspire the story. The room became a real art studio with focused creativity pouring onto the pages.

Getting creative juices flowing with watercolor pencils!

The kids were also able to draw inspiration and get real details from the large display of taxidermy animals that adorned the YCC. Flying ducks, owls, and even a fawn were on hand for observation. They will have two weeks to write their rough draft and then IRW and Kim return for a day of editing to really get a sense of the book-writing process. These kids were incredibly focused and eager to participate. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for our return on Monday, Nov. 5. Stay tuned!

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