Wolves—we may love or fear them—but some young people just want to understand them. Children at three schools in the United States, Mexico and Canada will work together on a “Wolves without Borders” project to learn about wolves in all three regions starting in March, 2011. One of the groups includes elementary students in École Riverside School in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada.
“The wolf is a species essential in all three countries, but misunderstood and threatened in many regions worldwide,” according to Linda Markus, School District of Mystery Lake, Thompson. “This collaborative project will support the participation of North American youth in the conservation of their regions and allow them to understand the global aspect and influence of their actions.”
The “Wolves without Borders” idea began to percolate at a Carnivore Conference in Denver, Colorado in November 2009 when 3 people met to share their ideas and interest in wolves in their own countries. Mary Ortiz, Executive Director of IWC, USA, Volker Beckmann of Spirit Way Inc., Canada, and Juan Carlos Bravo of Naturalia, Mexico realized good ideas have no boundaries and neither should wolves. Bringing students together in a virtual project across North America offered fascinating benefits for all.
The young students in three countries live in the temperate pine-oak forests of the Sky Islands Complex surrounded by the hot, northern state of Sonora, Mexico, in the deciduous and conifer forests of Minnesota, and in Manitoba with its cold winters, boreal forests and 100,000 lakes. Although the students are separated by thousands of miles, different languages and cultures, they are excited about the opportunity to learn to work together on a common theme of wolves.
“The International Wolf Center’s staff is excited to participate in the Wolves without Borders project. This cross-cultural learning opportunity aligns perfectly with the organization’s mission,” stated Jerritt Johnston, Director of Education. “Having the chance to collaborate with organizations in both Canada and Mexico will offer students in the Babbitt-Embarrass, Minnesota schools a tremendous experience. They will have the chance to learn about wolves, but just as importantly, they will interact with students with wonderfully diverse life experiences.
“In Minnesota, USA, wolf populations are growing and making a remarkable comeback. With that growth, comes increasing wolf-human interactions and the need for education about this controversial and charismatic animal. The International Wolf Center, a non-profit educational organization established in 1985, advances the survival of wolf populations around the world by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future.”
The students will work in conjunction with Naturalia A.C., a civil association in Mexico that creates, develops initiatives to help conserve and restore endangered wildlife, flora and ecosystems. The Wolves without Borders project recognizes that biodiversity, and ecological processes know no political boundaries.
The Mexican students are from Agua Prieta Sonora, a border city near Douglas, Arizona. At their school, Colegio MartiniE, they study with teacher Claudia Caballero and with Naturalia´s Environmental Educator, Francisco J Garcia Durazo. The school, a privately owned bilingual education institute, will bring 25 students ages 11 and 12 to the project. Agua Prieta, is one of the closest populations to the release area for the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program of the Mexican Federal Government. Naturalia works to educate residents of the northern region of Sonora on wolves and their importance in interactions with other elements of the ecosystem.
In Mexico, wolves have been exterminated from the natural landscape. Only a few hundred remain in captivity. Soon a few wolves of the Mexican wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, will be released back into the hot, northern state of Sonora, where temperatures can reach 120˚ F in the summer. Some area residents want them returned to their natural environment, while others do not. The cultural and educational programming of Wolves without Borders will help staff meet the long term goals of helping the public to understand and coexist with predators.
The project will involve students in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada, a small wilderness city that honors the wolf. Thompson is surrounded by boreal forest, lakes, rivers, and thousands of wolves, making it the Wolf Capital of Canada. Residents experience little human-wolf conflict, since the area does not support ranching or farming. The local Cree aboriginal people have lived with and trapped wolves for hundreds of years and respect this predator and its family.
Yet, other influences are at work as new roads, mines and huge hydro-power dams with transmission lines come into play. How will wolves continue to fit into this pristine environment? How will wolves acclimate with human intrusion in decades to come? How will moose population, caribou herds and even polar bears be affected as they interact with gray wolves? In Northern Manitoba, students have much to learn, and possibly much to teach the world in sustainable wolf management.
So, what is real versus fiction about wolves? This is a question many people have wondered for generations. During the Wolves Without Borders project, the three groups of students will address this question. They will explore two distinct perspectives about wolves within each country - the mythological and factual. The findings will then be compared with fellow learners across the continent.
Native storytelling from each country will give a historical and cultural perspective on how wolves have been viewed by people in the past. Students will then embark throughout their local community to interview people about their current thoughts on wolves. Partnering with the International Wolf Center, students will learn basic wolf ecology through videoconferencing programs. With the help from local research biologists who have shared data, students will plot the locations from wild wolves tracked by radio telemetry in their area. Learners will apply their new knowledge from the wolf ecology programs by analyzing and interpreting the locations to learn factual information about wolves for yet another view on the species.
As each student learns, they will also be communicating their ideas with a buddy from each of the different countries on a web-based program - www.wolveswithoutborders.posterous.com. Here any viewer can see how they are getting to meet each other, sharing their day to day experiences, posting pictures and videos, and engaging in discussions about their wolf findings. Over the next few months, after comparing and contrasting both the factual and mythological views on wolves from their own perspective, students will then share their information in a presentation viewed through Skype technology with each of the different countries to see what is truly real about wolves in other locations. This exercise will provide the students a wonderful exchange of friendships, cultural experiences and honest discussion about wolves and their place in the world.
A final media release will be issued when project is complete in early June, 2011. It is anticipated that another three country project at the high school level will occur next year as these schools, separated by thousands of miles, develop closer and stronger relationships.
• CONTACT INFORMATION:
THOMPSON, MANITOBA, CANADA:
Volker Beckmann, Project Coordinator, Spirit Way Inc.
Ph. (204) 778 7434
Linda Markus, Literacy Support, School District of Mystery Lake
Ph. (204) 677 6147
Principal Rob Fisher, École Riverside School, School District of Mystery Lake
BABBITT-EMBARRASS & ELY, MINNESOTA, USA:
Tara Johnson, Program Specialist, International Wolf Center
Ph. (218) 365 – 4695 ext. 33
AGUA PRIETA, SONORA, MEXICO:
Francisco J Garcia Durazo, Educación Ambiental, Naturalia A.C.
Ph. 52 (633) 338 6380, Cel: (633) 112 0233
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