Passion For Whooping Cranes Trumps Shyness

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?

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  1. Dorothy Nordness June 12, 2014 8:47 am

    Great Story, JoAnne. Passion replaces Shyness!

    Maybe some of those kids will end up working with the cranes some day!!!

  2. Cheryl Nichol June 11, 2014 4:43 pm

    Bravo, Joanne, for sharing your knowledge and passion for the whoopers with the next generation. Yes, you are definitely a rock star!

  3. Carol Berglund June 10, 2014 6:43 pm

    You rock, Jo! Thanks for all you do.

  4. Claire DeLand June 10, 2014 5:12 pm

    Atta girl, Jo!!!! You ARE a rock star!!! Can’t wait to see you in September . . .

  5. Warrenwesternpa June 10, 2014 8:24 am

    9 June 2014 Passion Trumps Shyness JoAnne Bellemer


    We can all relate to every word you have written. You don’t need a parachute to sky dive, but you need one to do it again!

    With all the other commentators. “You Go Girl” Thanks so very much!


  6. Kathie Rushlow June 10, 2014 5:04 am

    Jo, I know your feelings of excitement. I, too, teach elementary school children about OM and the reintroduction of the Whoopers. We live close to the former Citrus County, FL winter home of the OM project, and the whole idea of the effort was a natural to teach integrated studies on Science, Social Studies, Lang. Arts, and Math. My 2nd Graders (and most of my fellow faculty) learn so much about the concept of migration. Each year the knowledge deepens, and 20+ more students move on with the knowledge. It’s exciting to be part of it. (We’ve monitored the migrations for the past 9 years.)

    • Mindy Finklea June 11, 2014 12:52 pm

      You are an awesome teacher for doing this…..thank you!

  7. M L Walsh aka maxgreenwing June 9, 2014 4:01 pm

    YAY!! Good for you Jobel. & Good for us. 🙂

  8. Mindy Finklea June 9, 2014 1:57 pm

    So how far do you take your presentation? Maybe some Texas schools would be interested since one flock of Whoopers winters in Texas……Great job, Jo! Thank you for spreading education about Whooping Cranes. It is with education that we understand and it is with understanding that we help to preserve……I am not a “get up in front of people” kind of girl either so I really appreciate and admire your courage….especially to middle schoolers!

  9. Christina (barncat11) June 9, 2014 10:56 am

    Yes Jo, I hear you! (smile)

  10. Chix Laces June 9, 2014 10:46 am

    Great to hear you are out there spreading the news about whoopers.. We are so fortunate to have all the OM crew as well as all of our craniac out there as well spreading the news to schools, clubs, and retirement homes

  11. Sue Merchant June 9, 2014 10:44 am

    Thanks for giving the presentations and for sharing with us about them, Jo. Love it!

  12. P Main June 9, 2014 10:16 am

    You are so perfect for this! Big smile on my face. You go Jo!

  13. LindiLovesBirds June 9, 2014 9:29 am

    That is awesome Jo so glad you can do this and teach the kids while they are ready to listen and learn.

  14. Donna (ScubaNurse) June 9, 2014 8:16 am

    Way to Go, JO! How fantastic! I agree with Ruth, you need to include a few of your ‘me’ tales. Congrats.

  15. Russell Allison June 9, 2014 7:29 am


  16. Ruth Mitchell June 9, 2014 6:27 am

    Way to Go Jo!!!!! I am so very proud of you for getting out and spreading the word about our beautiful Whoopers!!!! And you know, I bet the kids would LOVE some of the “me” in your presentations…how could they NOT love hearing about the cows and the frozen feet!!! You go girl!!!! You ROCK!!!