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Killdeer, and Cougars, and Bears– Oh, My!

by Thérèse McNamara

 My school, situated in a rural setting, is one of those sites that might be considered ‘unique’ or even peculiar to a newcomer. Our location affords us with unusual opportunities for teaching students about thinking and acting responsibly and showing respect towards all things living. At any given time of the school year, we are apt to ‘enjoy’ visits from various forms of wildlife, drawing squeals of delight from some students and deadpan stares from others.

Springtime brings swooping killdeer, insistent upon laying eggs on the schoolyard, and equally insistent upon protecting them from the 400+ students who invade ‘their’ territory at recess. Alternating between dive-bombing at little heads, and feigning injury to draw away potential threats, these apparent nuisances provide authentic opportunities for teaching children about nature and our responsibilities for animal stewardship.

Equally interesting are the animals who make their way, mysteriously, into the school.  We’ve had a hummingbird, swallows, mice, and a snake added to our list of uninvited guests. Their presence has afforded occasions for problem-solving creative solutions for catching and releasing without causing injury or death, as well as feeling the proud swell that comes from a good deed done.

On occasion, we will receive a warning from concerned community members of a bear or cougar sighting within the vicinity. Although we have never actually seen one ourselves (and fingers crossed that we never do), we recognize that these animals do live in our community’s forests and that it is best to act in the best and safest interests of our students.  Accordingly, we teach our students to be aware of potential threats, to be familiar with safety procedures, and to remain calm and understand the difference between a potential threat and an actual one.

How is your school environment unique? In what ways do staff use these characteristics to offer teachable moments for creating caring citizens? 


Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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