Those of you who really know me know how shy I am, right? OK, maybe I’ve been more outgoing the past few years, but if you knew me “when”, you’d remember that I stayed home “sick” just about every time I was scheduled to talk in front of a classroom. And that really wasn’t a stretch – I felt sick every time I thought about doing it!
But, as they say, age brings wisdom, and wisdom brings confidence. Since I can’t wait until I get that old, I’m substituting passion for age and cute chicks for wisdom, the result of which is a Powerpoint slide show about OM and Whooping Cranes that I’ve been presenting to any classroom that will have me.
So far I’ve managed to wiggle and jiggle my way into four classrooms in three schools to deliver my discourse, and, if I do say so myself, it’s been pretty well received – there have been no snoozers! Well, that’s not entirely true… The very first presentation I did was at the Atria Retirement Community where my mom lives. I have to confess that at least one person there nodded off at least once. I told myself that age also brings sleepiness at 7 PM and didn’t take it to heart.
That first presentation was a bit different than what I deliver to school children. The folks at Atria know me and were interested in my personal experiences during the last migration, so I threw a lot of “me” into the mix. They especially liked my first fearful encounter with cows! And the story of me, Joe, and Richard trying to track down #3-13 the day six cranes landed out in four locations – those little stinkers really stretched the crew thin that day!!! Oh and another “rodeo day” when Heather and I had to walk four colts about a mile back to the pen while poor Colleen and Geoff kept two others company in a freezing cold creek with the water over their boot tops. The OM migration crew is either passionately dedicated or too crazy to notice when their feet turn into ice cubes!
For classrooms, I have a different show that focuses less on me and more on the incredible story of Whooping Cranes and Operation Migration’s unique role in their comeback. My first classroom presentation was at Nathanael Greene Middle School in Providence. My friend Anna is a science teacher there who was brave enough to let me use her kids as guinea pigs. Seemed like it went well – the kids asked lots of questions which I’m told is a good sign. My favorite was “what do you think they [the cranes] taste like?”! Ummmm chicken??
Next was a small private school in North Stonington, CT. A childhood friend Sally (yes, from that long ago!!!) teaches 4th and 5th grades there (I SAID it’s a small school!). I took my mom with me so she could say hi to Sally, plus I kinda wanted to show her what I was doing. Even at this age I still want Mom’s approval I guess… Sheesh! Again, the kids asked LOTS (and I mean LOTSSS) of questions! My favorite of this bunch was “what’s the difference between a Whooping Crane and an Egret”? Believe it or not, that question stumped me and my reply was a bit flip I guess, but that’s not how I intended it – I said “what’s the difference between a robin and a blue jay”?, just trying to point out that there are all sorts of different birds. In retrospect the more appropriate answer would have been to explain the physical differences, which MAY have been what the kid was actually asking. I’ll be ready if this question ever comes up again! (Well, I’ll be ready after I consult my Kaufman Field Guide!)
A couple of weeks ago I gave two presentations at The Wheeler School, a private school in Providence. One thing that made this experience a bit different is that Wheeler actually insisted on paying me an honorarium for each talk! I insisted that I’m not doing this for money but they re-insisted harder that they pay me, so the money will go right to OM! Thank you Mark! Oh, and thanks to my college suite-mate Jean for getting me in to see Mark!
I estimate that between these two presentations at Wheeler, I reached the better part of one hundred students in grades 4, 5, and 6. There wasn’t much time for questions as we lost several minutes during one session to a fire drill, and the 2nd session butted right up to the end of the school day. But the kids seemed very engaged and the subsequent feedback I received from Mark was that I’m a ROCK STAR! WOOHOO this is gonna go right to my head!!! Never mind that it’s really the happy-flappy chicks that the kids immediately fall in love with, and let’s disregard the great material that Joe Duff helped me put together for these talks.
Shyness overcome, I’m ready to hit the road in my tour bus and spread the good news that OPERATION MIGRATION IS SAVING WHOOPING CRANES FROM EXTINCTION! Can you hear me now?