Wild Friends Manual
4th Printing - June 1999
Copyright © 1992, 1999 by Center for Wildlife Law.
- Why become a "Wild Friend"
- Starting a Wild Friends Program
- Finding Out About Laws... and Writing One
- You've got a Bill. Now What?
- Wild Friends and the Arts
- Something Special: A Wildlife Summit
- Wrapping Up a Wild Season
- Volunteer Wild Friends
- Wild Friends: The First Two Years
- Evaluators' Comments
We at the Center for Wildlife Law have many people and groups to thank for the continued success of the Wild Friends program. But we would especially like to thank those who made it possible to update and reissue this Wild Friends Manual. Many elements of the program have changed and matured since 1991, and rewrite was definitely overdue. Sincere thanks go to Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Eluid Martinez, whose faith in the young kids of New Mexico has led to his agency's support of the Wild Friends, and in particular, the Wild Friends Manual update and placement online. We would also like to thank the Deer Creek Foundation of St. Louis, Missouri for their support of the Manual's updating.
We would also like to thank the New Mexico State Legislature for their continued support of the Wild Friends Program. None of this could be possible without our legislative sponsors and supporters, especially Senator Tom Rutherford and Speaker of the House Raymond Sanchez, as well as Sen. Ben Altimirano, Reprs. Mimi Stewart and Max Coll. Deepest thanks also to the Frost Foundation for their support and for making it possible to continue the Wildlife Summit.
As anyone replicating this fantastic program will see, the real work is done by the teachers, mentors and volunteers, including parents. Our senior mentor Jack Pickering has been a real Godsend to the staff and especially to the kids, as has Dance Alegre Dance Director Lori Saint. The dedicated and tireless teachers that get involved in this program are the ones who make it hit home for the students, providing at once an educational, exciting and inspirational lesson that students never forget.
February 1999: The Wild Friends students from Moriarty Middle School sit quietly in the gallery of the New Mexico House of Representatives, waiting for the vote on House Joint Memorial 34, the Wild Friends' 1999 legislative effort. HJM 34 requests a study of the connection between violence to wildlife and violence toward humans, especially by youth. Finally the bill is called for consideration. The Speaker of the House presents the bill, thanking the Wild Friends for their hard work and serious thought on such an important issue. Several other legislators speak in turn, all voicing support of HJM 34. The vote is called, and as the voting board slowly lights up it becomes apparent that HJM 34 will pass unanimously. Suddenly and spontaneously, the entire House of Representatives jumps to its feet and turns toward the surprised students in the gallery in a standing ovation to honor the Wild Friends.
Our nation's young people and wildlife have something in common. Both are increasingly at risk in their respective environments. There are no easy solutions, but through active involvement and persistence, an educated and visionary public can direct its destiny by directing its public officials on what needs to be done. Encouraging young people, still non-voters, to get involved early, can make a difference for the ultimate good of all of us.
In 1991, the Center for Wildlife Law at the University of New Mexico started an educational program called "Wild Friends" to teach young people that they can make a difference for wildlife, the natural world, and their own lives. Through hands-on experiences with wildlife issues, law and policy, teachers and others are invited to share their wisdom, skills and experience with the younger generation. Young people naturally connect with wildlife, and this natural connection leads to genuine interest in doing something to help wildlife. The Wild Friends concept is a tool for countering lack of interest among youth about the democratic process and in talking action in the race against time to save imperiled wildlife.
If you are looking for something new and "wild," we have developed a flexible, creative program for students in grades 4-12. It can be adapted to a classroom setting and integrated into an existing curriculum, or offered as an after-school activity. It works for private prep schools or urban public schools; the only essential element is an interested teacher.
|Wild Friends provides young people the opportunity to learn how to do something positive about the environment. Students hear so many negative things that they can easily have an attitude of "Why bother?' Wild Friends learn that they do have power and control over their futures. I think the program is great." --Debra Loftin, high school science teacher|
Wild Friends are students, teachers and many others who want to do something to preserve wildlife. They explore why and how our wildlife is at-risk today, and how protecting wildlife and habitat are complex issues. They learn how law and policy affect wildlife conservation today. Then Wild Friends develop strategies and activities through which they act. And they have fun, too!
The goal of the Wild Friends program is to instill in students a sense of excitement about, and responsibility for, participating in the democratic process by engaging them in wildlife conservation projects in real-life settings with tangible outcomes.
- experience how law and government work and how citizens can make their concerns known to elected officials;
- learn about wildlife conservation, habitat and related issues;
- meet people with different points of view and discuss common ground perspectives;
- express their views publicly (orally, in writing and through performing arts);
- interact with mentors and explore career choices related to land and wildlife;
- understand how to exercise power and control over their own futures.
The theme of the Wild Friends program is, "Finding Common Ground to Protect Our Heritage." Wildlife conservation issues are complex. Through role playing and other activities, students discover the reasons why different groups of citizens have different opinions about wildlife conservation. Wild Friends recognize that people often become divided in their opinions and actions even though they may share common goals for the future. Wild Friends promote the idea that people should try to understand one another and that we all are better served by finding the common ground. (See the Wild Friends "Common Ground" Memorial in the appendices.)
Program activities may include:
- choosing annual legislative projects;
- participating in, and having booths at, wildlife and environmental festivals;
- experiencing wildlife education programs and live animal presentations;
- doing research on particular wild animals and issues;
- interviewing elected officials and wildlife professionals;
- interviewing people with different points of view, and role-playing;
- drafting practice and actual legislation;
- making field trips to the state legislature;
- making field trips to the law school, local and state agencies, and courts;
- talking at public meetings and testifying before official committees;
- writing letters and undertaking petition campaigns;
- creating dances, plays, visual arts, and puppets;
- interacting with the media;
- doing individualized classroom projects and field trips.
Wild Friends everywhere receive the program newsletter, The Wild News, and are invited to the "Wildlife Summit," a wildlife conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico for young people. (See Appendices for sample newsletter and summit program.) Wild Friends also has a home page featuring the newsletters, photos, program activities, legislation, and more. Try it out at http://ipl.unm.edu/cwl/wf.
Teachers and group sponsors establish eligibility requirements for individual Wild Friends groups, such as regular attendance at meetings or minimum grade criteria. Participants can become a part of other Wild Friends around the state and country by applying for official numbered membership cards from the Center for Wildlife Law (see example below). Teachers submit a sign-up form with the signatures and ages of the students to the Center. Each student must pledge to carry out at least two actions listed on the back of the membership card. Every name and card number becomes part of the Wild Friends database.
|Card Front||Card Back|
Membership sign-up forms and cards are available from:
Wild Friends Program
UNM Center for Wildlife Law
1117 Stanford NE
Albuquerque, NM 87131
WILD FRIENDS T-SHIRTS:
All participants are encouraged to wear official Wild Friends T-shirts on field-trips and at program-sponsored activities. Since 1991, up to 2,000 students have worn the bright turquoise Wild Friends T-shirts featuring our Wild Friends logo to meet legislators and public officials at public functions and on field trips around the state. While observing a Wild Friends group in action at the 1999 New Mexico Legislature, a veteran lobbyist commented, "Wild Friends are the most visible youth group up here." Our students soon learn that Wild Friends T-shirts mean immediate recognition. When you are starting your Wild Friends program, you may consider increasing your visibility by investing in T-shirts. The Center for Wildlife Law can provide you with a copy of the logo suitable for a T-shirt transfer. During the first two years, our T-shirts were donated by, and featured the name of, the Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation Department. You might want to consider a similar option.
A Wild Friends program can be as big or small as your school or community desires and can support. It can be started by a teacher in a classroom setting, in an after-school club by youth group sponsor, in a senior or intergenerational program, a community recreation program, a public library, a university-based educational program, even a youth correctional facility or alternative school. In 1998, a home-schooler group started a program. You can partner with any organization having the appropriate staff, expertise and resources to help you plan and carry out a Wild Friends program. Members of local organizations may welcome the opportunity to help organize a program for young people focusing on wildlife and citizenship activities.
|It was my pleasure to meet with the Wild Friends students in the Capitol. |
I appreciate the work you are doing through the Wild Friend program to educate students and the larger community about wildlife issues. Increased public awareness about these matters is essential to ensuring the future well-being of the environment. I commend your program's commitment to achieving this goal and to teaching students about the political process. The experience that Wild Friends students gain is invaluable.
Again, I applaud the work you are doing to promote civic involvement among students. I hope that you will continue to keep me informed of your activities. Best regards.
--Jeff Bingaman, U.S. Senator
Teachers should begin by talking with other teachers and school administrators to gain support for the idea of a Wild Friends program. Ultimately, you will be networking with legislators and other elected officials. Before you do, identify a couple of important issues that you and your students are interested in. Check with local, state and national wildlife and civics/legal organizations for materials, live animals, presenters, and speakers. Often these organizations have state and national affiliates that can be ready resources. Your Wild Friends program can be a venue for their presentations and educational materials, and their members may be potential volunteers and mentors for students. Some ideas for contact organizations are listed in Appendix 2. Groups that assisted in the pilot Wild Friends program are listed in Chapter 9.
There is a special joy in arriving at the door of a classroom, carrying an array of photos, posters and newsletters which feature whooping cranes, Mexican gray wolves, eagles and bears, green salamanders, little Gila trout and wondrous falcons. Most students are quickly interested in these elegant critters who share their habitat, and even an outside visitor can observe the ways young adults feel empathy with Wild Friends such as these. Students quickly volunteer ideas about actions they could take to help wildlife benefit from local, protective actions.
Teens sense a rapport with raptors, a sympathy with snakes and feelings for falcons. It doesn't take long for pictures, stories and the reality of threatened habitats to create a lively dialogue and excite the imaginations of these potential lawmakers. And that is what they do. Make new laws or memorials and call attention to the need of critters often forgotten by state politicians. When successful, the effect of this student action is a powerful dose of self-esteem and pride in a legitimate accomplishment.
Identifying one critical teacher, at any school level, is the key to sustaining involvement. In every school there is always one science, civics, biology, social studies, or English teacher who happens to love wildlife issues. That teacher is easy to identify by stopping in at the office of the principal. My initial talks in one class and then a follow-up visit to invite these specific students/classes to become Wild Friends is the essence of outreach and recruitment. I tell the class stories, show pictures, report on past actions taken by peers and invite them to consider being Wild Friends for one school year.
When students sign up they receive a membership card and agree to the pledge and to taking two concrete actions. Middle schools (junior high) are our primary interest, but we have recruited students in high schools and elementary schools when a particular teacher expresses interest. Enthusiasm for the potential of action on behalf of wildlife is absolutely crucial. If the outreach speaker is eager and positive, the students will carry it on from there. A careful balance between suggesting ideas and listening to fresh potential actions is basic.
Wild Friends in Action
Once you know who your sponsors and/or funders are; how much, if any, money you have to start with; and where, when and with whom you will be meeting, you are ready to begin.
Have A GRAND Opening
One way to kick off is to have a grand opening. It can feature various short activities and presentations of 5-15 minutes. The event is an excellent way to recruit students, volunteers, and potential sponsors. Live animal presentations and snacks are effective draws. Post a simple printed notice or flyer to invite people.
Keep the pace fast, upbeat and colorful. You can announce plans for activities and field trips, and sample wildlife topics. Each of your presenters can offer a different view on what is happening to wildlife, why wildlife is important, and how students in cooperation with the community can make a difference. Pass out signup forms containing parental consent for participation and announce a deadline for turning them in. Consider inviting the media. Live animals and young people are a natural for television and photography.
If you decide not to have a grand opening, have a not-so-grand opening. Some kind of kickoff is important to inform the community and to inspire your group. Even a small meeting with refreshments is enough to get going. The idea of doing something to help wildlife will attract students if they know about the event.
Get Going With Activities
Whether your opening is large, medium or small, activities should begin as soon as possible afterwards while interest is high. Once you have a group formed, everyone can sign the membership form to receive official Wild Friends cards. The most successful Wild Friends programs have meetings every week. During early meetings, students should pick which issue they would like to become involved in. Along with learning about wildlife, all presentations and activities should emphasize the Wild Friends theme of "finding common ground to protect our heritage."
In the beginning, activities can focus on the importance of wildlife and the ecosystem. Students can discuss who makes laws about wildlife, what endangered species are, why species are endangered, and what can be done by the Wild Friends do to assist wildlife in their city, county, state, region, country, ecosystem, or planet.
NOTE: Some weekly activities need to be scheduled several weeks in advance. This gives organizations and speakers the necessary time to be available and prepare. It also allows time to print notices and have them disseminated.
Volunteers are priceless to a Wild Friends program. Encouragement or guidance from a retired senior or other adult volunteer to a student can make lasting positive impressions. They can be of enormous help to teachers and groups sponsors. Volunteers can bring expertise, enthusiasm and personal stories to share. Some are long-time wildlife activists and can help your students with projects. Local wildlife organizations and citywide mentorship programs are good places to recruit volunteers. And don't forget parents and grandparents!
See the section on Intergenerational Tips for more information.
|Why I am Involved in Wild Friends|
by John M. (Jack) Pickering
Throughout my 82 years, I have felt responsible for all creatures who need my help. Perhaps I gained this feeling because my family included a handicapped grandmother and a brother four years younger than I. Also, though a city boy, I always lived near parks and spent holidays in the country, and was aware of my debt to "wild friends" for the pleasure they gave me. My parents fostered my sense of guardianship and stewardship. Thus I have always been drawn to activities benefiting those who need a helping hand because of inexperience, handicaps, or inability to cope with the modern world. As an Eagle Scout, I was active in social service and wildlife protection projects, and was one of the nation's first Cub Scout leaders. I continued such activities into adulthood and parenthood in New York, California, and Pennsylvania. I felt especially gratified by my small part in preserving Pennsylvania's Hawk Mountain and in providing wildlife sanctuaries on San Francisco Bay. Soon after retiring to New Mexico in 1991, I heard of Ruth Musgrave's creation of Wild Friends at the Center for Wildlife Law, University of New Mexico. Here, I thought, was a way to combine my concern for wildlife with my concern for young people -- including some considered at risk of failing. My expectations for Wild Friends have been fully realized, thanks to dedicated leaders like Ruth, Carolyn Byers, and Camy Condon, and, most of all, to the zeal and imagination of several hundred delightful kids.
Something Else to Consider: An Advisory Board
If you are starting a large scale program, we recommend forming an advisory board to help you. The Wild Friends Advisory Board was of invaluable assistance during the pilot project. Your first group-wide organizational meeting can also be your first advisory board meeting. It is a good idea to have a community representative from each of the involved organizations. This meeting can be a fun brainstorming session.
Along with discussing activities and progress, your board can provide you with valuable feedback and suggestions for problem solving and planning. Regular board meetings also will encourage continued interest and participation by community groups. Videotapes or first-hand accounts of activities are a good way to maintain enthusiasm and support. In addition to discussion items listed below, an initial Wild Friends calendar might also be drafted, which gives participating individuals and organizations a schedule for planning wildlife presentations or other activities.
An advisory board made up of community representatives can help you:
- create cross-cultural community linkages and generating excitement around this novel program;
- obtain commitments of organizations to participate;
- determine what expertise and resources can be tapped for the program;
- estimate the level of participation that can be realistically expected.
Ideas for discussion topics:
- need for a youth motivational project within the community;
- need for an intergenerational project within the community;
- suggestions for other organizations and programs with which to network in the community;
- budget and financial considerations;
- target student population, including ages, grades, schools, etc.;
- availability of resources, such as meeting sites, transportation, etc.;
- recruitment of retired adults or other potential adult mentors.
Center for Wildlife Law, University of New Mexico
|The Center for Wildlife Law|
When I first came up with the idea to develop a Center for Wildlife Law, one of my unstated goals was to make certain that young people had an opportunity to learn not only about wildlife, but about the important issues that impact wildlife, especially laws concerning wildlife conservation. The Wild Friends concept evolved over months of discussion and brainstorming. How could we include students in the making of laws and policy that affected wildlife? How could we make them see that they can really make a difference, and that laws are not impossible, grownup concepts? These questions led us to the Wild Friends model.
As an attorney and former lobbyist working with Wild Friends I can make the policy and legal issues understandable to the students (who grasp legal concepts easily when they care about an issue). I can also have fun answering the inevitable questions about becoming a lawyer, and why I care deeply about wildlife. I can teach the kids how to testify before the legislative committees, and even how to argue their points to an adult who may have the power to make a law.
I believe that it is important to have an attorney, legislator or lobbyist who is involved in wildlife conservation issues, become a part of any Wild Friends program. This person can help educate the teachers, staff, mentors and students about some of the state, federal or local laws about wildlife. A mentor with legal and lobbying skills can also educate you about the politics of wildlife conservation and environmental laws, especially locally, and can guide your group around some of the "land mines" in the legislative and political process so that you can enjoy success in promoting your chosen wildlife issue.
Such a person can be found: through local environmental or wildlife organizations; by word of mouth; at law schools, usually teaching environmental subjects; by calling the state bar of attorneys in the state; or by asking your state wildlife agency. Often our Center for Wildlife Law will know someone in your area who may be of help. You may want to look for a mentor who is advocating a spectrum of environmental and wildlife issues, not just animal rights or sportsmen's (hunters) rights.
Ruth Musgrave, Director, Center for Wildlife Law
Sometimes civics can be a dry and boring subject, but drafting and working your own wildlife legislation through your state legislature or city council is anything but boring. The first step is to find out how laws are made. We suggest you invite someone to come talk to your group. Here are some ideas for potential speakers:
- state legislators
- state land commissioner
- county commissioners
- mayors and city councilors
- environmental lawyers
- law school professors
- law-related education program speakers
- state wildlife agency representatives; e.g., from your state fish and wildlife, conservation, or parks and recreation departments
- federal wildlife agency representatives, e.g., from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or the U.S. Forest Service
- county or city animal control officers
- lobbyists or local wildlife activists from organizations such as the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Audubon Society, etc.
- humane associations
Speakers should be familiar with the kind of government you have in your state, county, and city, and how it is managed. They should discuss some examples of specifics laws and why these laws were passed, what laws they would like to see passed, and then describe how a bill becomes a law. Different types of legislation (bill, resolution, memorial, et al.) require certain language that your speakers will explain.
At this point, you may want to give the students an opportunity to practice drafting a piece of legislation. This exercise can be done on the blackboard, or each student or group of students can write their own version with the help of the Wild Friends worksheet (See Appendix 1). To familiarize you and your students with the process of writing legislation, we recommend starting out with a memorial. In whatever kind of legislation you are drafting, you will need to outline specific points. Most types of legislation describe a problem and propose a solution. For example, a Wild Friends bill proposed new civil and criminal penalties for certain types of wildlife violations. Another example was a memorial that proposed an official state day to promote public awareness for the endangered whooping crane.
Different Types of Legislation
A BILL proposes a new law, or a change in an existing law. In order to become law, a bill must be passed by both houses and signed by the governor. Laws relating to taxes, air pollution, drugs, highways, animals, or schools all started out as bills. Bills may originate in either house, but by custom the general appropriations bill (that designates the money to run state government) originates in the House of Representatives. An example of a bill that can become law is Wild Friends' House Bill 249, which increased penalties for poaching, or illegally taking wildlife.
A RESOLUTION is a formal declaration of the Legislature concerning some subject that it either cannot or does not wish to control by law. Resolutions are either JOINT, CONCURRENT or SIMPLE and require no action on the part of the governor. A JOINT RESOLUTION is a declaration by both houses used to propose amendments to the state Constitution or to ratify amendments to the Federal Constitution. Joint resolutions are also used to express the approval of the Legislature. CONCURRENT RESOLUTIONS are used for the purpose of adopting or amending joint rules of the Legislature.
A MEMORIAL is an expression of legislative desire, usually addressed to another governmental body in the form of a petition or declaration of intent. For example, a memorial may ask the highway Department to build a road in a certain part of the state, or the Energy and Natural Resources Department to create a new state park, or a legislative interim committee to study a particular problem. JOINT MEMORIALS are those memorials passed by both houses; simple memorials are an expression by only one house.
Writing and supporting state legislation is an extraordinary experience for Wild Friends students. If you choose to write real legislation as part of your program, you will need the help of a legislator or an elected public official to sponsor and submit it to the appropriate forum. These days it is fairly easy to find legislators and elected public officials who are concerned about wildlife issues. Some ways for you and your students to identity such a person include: reading local newspaper articles and watching TV news, talking to experts, going to public meetings that concern the environment, and letting friends, co-workers, and relatives know you are looking for someone.
Once you have picked your issue, talked with knowledgeable people, and done your research, decide what sort of legislation you want to try to get passed. Keep in mind that some states have alternating short and long sessions (as in New Mexico), and there are rules about when certain types of legislation can be submitted. During New Mexico's short session (called a financial session), only bills relating to money are considered, though memorials on any subject are allowed. You will need to get dates and lengths of sessions and any other information from your legislature before deciding what type of legislation you want to draft.
After your students have completed their draft, the legislative sponsor will review it. In many states, the legislator then will submit it to the state legislative counsel service where lawyers will check to see if it conflicts with or replicates any existing laws. If there are no problems, they prepare the final draft for your sponsor who signs it and who is responsible for introducing it in the Senate or the House of Representatives. Legislators who want to be co-sponsors put their signatures on the legislation too. At this point, your legislation begins its journey through the system.
To support their project, students can learn how to write letters to officials, speak to the media and at public meetings about their concerns, set up meetings with government officials asking them about their positions, and testify before a city board or state legislature. Volunteers can be very helpful as mentors in helping your students from start to finish.
Your students have the will to help wildlife. Now they have written or identified a wildlife bill, memorial, or resolution that will help turn their dreams into reality. From this point, activities will center around helping them to become players in the legislative process. They can have a powerful influence on lawmaking bodies.
Speaker of the House, New Mexico State Legislature
|I am very proud of all the students who participated in the drafting process. I felt great knowing that I was helping teach some of our young people their first real lesson about government and the legislative process. |
--Raymond G. Sanchez, Speaker of the House, New Mexico State Legislature
While finding out about what a law is and how it is made, your students may have discussed how legislation travels through the legislative process. If not, here are a few pointers.
Introducing a bill, memorial or resolution in the state legislature
In some states, including New Mexico, only legislators, singly or by committee, may introduce legislation in the Senate or the House of Representatives. Once your legislation has been drafted and prepared for introduction, it will be presented by your legislator or sponsor to the Chief Clerk who will assign it a number. The Reading Clerk will read it twice by number and title along with the name of the principal sponsor. The presiding officer of the House of Representatives or the Senate will order it printed and will assign it to one or more appropriate committees for hearing and recommendations. It is the action in these committees that often "make or break" a bill.
Click here to view a chart about
How to pass a Law or Memorial in New Mexico
Convincing lawmakers to pass your bill
Wild Friends need to inform lawmakers about, and convince them to pass their wildlife legislation. Is this lobbying? After all, lobbying traditionally is defined as trying to get a legislator to vote a certain way on a piece of legislation. The word "lobbyist" comes from the old days when people hovered in the state house lobby to corner lawmakers to get their attention. These days, professional lobbyists frequently are paid by a specific group for doing this. This kind of lobbying falls under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations and states require professional lobbyists to be registered. Foundations or other nonprofit sponsors may understandably wish to avoid involvement in direct lobbying efforts because of IRS regulations.
Activities by your students advocating for passage or failure of legislation does not require them to be registered as lobbyists as long as they are working on their own behalf. Students have a lot of fun with this part of the legislative process, but keep in mind that it is not just a learning experience; this is the real world. Lawmakers are very busy people since they have to consider hundreds of bills and how money should be spent, all in a short period of time. You want them to take you seriously.
Start communicating with legislators as soon as possible.
Legislators often consider much more than testimony given at a hearing in deciding how to vote on a bill. It is important for supporters to communicate with their legislators early, to understand any concerns legislators might have. Because legislators have to process hundreds of bills in a session, the more you can do before a session is very far along, or even before it starts, the better chance your legislation has to pass.
Try to get a broad variety of supporters.
Since constituents are the people who elect them, legislators will be more likely to vote for legislation that is supported by people in their home districts, not just "wildlife people." Ask people in your community, such as neighbors, parents, peers, and organizations to contact their district's senators and representatives.
Do your homework.
As the chart shows, bills have to pass through many committees and two full floor votes, so it is most important to have the support of committee chairpersons and a majority of committee members. You will need to know what committees your legislation is assigned to. Your sponsor will have a good idea which committees your bill is likely to be heard in. Find out what legislators are on these committees and where they are from. A committee member especially should receive letters, phone calls, faxes, e-mail etc., from constituents in their district.
Legislators' addresses and committee assignments are available from a variety of places, including the internet, party headquarters, the state legislature's information office, or your own school's administrative office.
Take a field trip.
Most legislatures have thousands of visitors, including many school groups. What sets the Wild Friends students apart is that they go to the legislature to be active participants, not just to observe. It won't always be possible, but if you can, take your students to where the action is.
How to do a legislative field trip
Many of these guidelines can be applied to trips to the city and county governments as well.
Before you go, you'll need to know:
1. What kind of legislature do you have? Are the legislators paid a salary to serve or are they citizens who take time off from their jobs to serve? Does the legislature meet year round or only at a certain time of year? When does the legislature meet?
2. Find out if there are any informational materials you can get ahead of time. Often state general service departments publish directories, booklets and brochures about your state legislature. The governor's office and the secretary of state's office also have materials.
3. Does your state legislature allow visitors during the session? If so, do you need a reservation? Is there a limit on group size? Are passes or name badges required?
4. Where do visitors park cars and buses? Do you have to pay for parking?
5. Is there a map of the building available? Are there official guided tours to familiarize your group with the floor plan?
6. Where are the hearing rooms? Where are the media rooms where you can introduce yourselves to reporters and to drop off press releases? Is the governor's office in the capitol building? Is there a visitors gallery in each chamber where you can watch legislators at work?
7. Are there other things to see and do in the capitol building; i.e., art, presentations, snack bars or cafeterias for those times when legislators are not available to you? Are there other government offices nearby? In New Mexico, for example, the Game and Fish Department and the State Land Office are within walking distance from the state capitol.
When you know the answers to the above questions:
1. Notify your sponsor and other legislators of the date and time that you are coming, and when you are planning to leave. Ask your sponsor for suggestions where you can leave coats, lunches, gear, backpacks, and also where they can sit to eat their lunches. Often legislators will offer their own offices.
Take a list of phone numbers with you such as your sponsors and any other offices you might want to visit.
2. Take plenty of copies of your legislation with you to give to legislators and others. Also take press releases if you have them.
3. Allow plenty of time for travel, parking, finding your way around, and for making last minute adjustments to your itinerary once you get there.
4. Wear your Wild Friends T-shirts!
When you arrive at the Capitol:
1. Identify a quiet corner where you can get your group together to talk to them. Leave your coats and lunches in the pre-arranged place. Locate the bathrooms.
2. Go to the information desk to find out what hearings are scheduled and what bills are being voted on that day. Adjust your itinerary accordingly. Check in with your legislative sponsor's staff. Pick up your passes or badges if required.
3. Ask if you are allowed to go to the "bill room." If so, ask where it is or use your map. Go there to get copies of specific bills you are interested in. There is usually a small charge for copies of bills.
Find your legislators.
1. You will go to where the legislators are, if you can; e.g., to their offices, or to the Senate or House of Representatives, or to committee hearing rooms. This is where you will have to plan your itinerary based on what is happening that day. Be flexible.
2. If they are in their offices, use your map to find them. Most often the legislators are friendly and expect and enjoy visits from constituents. For youth groups such as Wild Friends, legislators seem especially responsive, even though their offices are almost always very busy during a session. It is an opportunity for you to talk together about your legislation. There will be times when legislators won't be able to spend as much time with you as you would like, and sometimes they won't have time to meet with you at all. If your visit coincides with something like a party caucus, a hearing, or a vote call, don't be disappointed if you are not able to see your legislator. These are times to fall back on your other opportunities to make short field trips to other locations in and around the capitol building until they are available again.
3. Are they meeting on the floor of the House or Senate? You can go to the visitors gallery and observe them in action, a good way for you to get the big picture. In some states, you will be able to see them individually by asking the sergeant at arms to take a written note onto the floor to give to the legislator you wish to speak to. The legislator, unless there is a vote going on, is usually willing to step out into the hall to talk with you. If it has been arranged ahead of time, your sponsoring legislator may invite you onto the Senate or House floor as special guests.
4. Are they in committee? In some states, visitors may not be allowed in committee hearings. In other states, you may be let in but you won't be allowed to speak. In others, such as New Mexico, testimony from the public is usual and welcomed.
5. Are they in caucus? Caucus is a meeting of the members of one political party. It's always behind closed doors. When legislators are in caucus, you can't see them.
How to win friends and influence powerful people
1. Always be polite and respectful. Shake hands. Look your legislator in the eye.
Don't expect every legislator to support your issue from the very beginning. Hopefully they will, but don't take it for granted.
2. Do your homework, have the facts and don't exaggerate.
Legislators need to know they can trust you and therefore believe the information you give them. Never exaggerate or stretch the truth. Don't feel like you need to know everything to be an effective advocate for your issue. You'll learn things from them, too.
3. Write down points you want to remember.
Take good notes and share information with others.
ALWAYS send thank you notes.
Write and send thank you notes or letters to legislators who take the time to meet with you. Yes, they are your representatives and they want to meet with you, but they are busy people. Thank you notes will go a long way toward developing the kind of positive and respectful relationship you want with legislators. Wild Friends have been told many times that we are one of the few groups who follows up with thank you letters. Students can draft them in class after a field trip.
4. Don't get discouraged.
If a legislator doesn't agree with your point of view, don't get discouraged. Often legislators will support your views over time. They will learn to respect you as a group of citizens who care deeply about the issue and understand how the democratic process works (and who write thank-you letters!).
5. Wear your Wild Friends T-shirt when you go to the legislature!
In the New Mexico legislature, our special T-shirt is instantly recognizable. Wild Friends students have been visiting the legislature since 1991. Even if a legislator doesn't know a student personally, he/she usually knows about Wild Friends. The group has become well known and respected. If you are starting a new Wild Friends program, the Wild Friends T-shirt can be a useful tool for helping your group become easily recognized.
More how to win friends and influence powerful people: Testifying before a committee.
One of the most effective ways to represent your issue is to testify on its behalf before the committee hearing the legislation. Your sponsor will help you find out when your legislation is scheduled to be heard by a specific committee. Most of the process of getting legislation passed takes place in committee hearings. In most states, the public often has an opportunity to testify in committees. This includes Wild Friends.
1. Your sponsor will introduce your legislation, along with the speakers from your group, to the committee. Your sponsor needs to know beforehand who is going to speak so you should have a written list of student and other names ready.
2. When the sponsor gives the cue, the Wild Friends speaker moves to the microphone. The teacher or the adult may go with the student, too, for support. Legislators realize that speaking in public makes people nervous and they are very patient and gracious to students in these situations. Below is a suggested script to getting started.
"Mr. Chairman,..." or "Madame Chairperson, and members of the [name of committee] Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of [this legislation]. My name is [your name], and I am in the [your grade] grade at [your school and city]. I represent Wild Friends from all over the state who could not be here today. I think you should support this legislation because...". (In your own words, from the heart, give the reasons why you think the bill should be passed.)
Now you are ready to wrap up your testimony. If you helped write the legislation, say so. Finish by thanking your sponsor for carrying the bill in the committee.
Then committee members will ask questions, make comments, discuss the bill, and make recommendations for amendments, if any. Then they make a motion for the committee to vote. At this time, the committee can vote to:
(1) recommend that it "do pass," or "do pass as amended," or "do not pass," or it may refer the bill back to the floor without recommendation;
(2) substitute a new and similar bill for the original bill, incorporating changes the committee has made;
(3) refer the bill to another committee, or
(4) "table" it for consideration at another time (this frequently means the end of the bill because it does not get called back for reconsideration). Committee recommendations have to be approved by the full House or Senate, after which the bill is placed on a calendar, which is the schedule of business the House or Senate must consider on any day.
Note: When the session gets busy and calendars get full, committee hearings can run into the night and over weekends, or can be postponed at the last minute. Wild Friends should be cautioned that even though they are prepared to testify, there is always the possibility they may not be able to.
At Last: The Vote
Once your wildlife legislation has made it through the committee process in each chamber, it will go to the floor of the Senate or House for what is called its "third reading." Members may publicly debate its pros and cons, and amendments may be added at this stage, or the entire document may be substituted by another one similar to it. The sponsor of the legislation is allowed to close debate by speaking last. The the senators or representatives then cast the final vote, which is taken and recorded.
If you are lucky, you will be there to see the final vote on your bill, as was a group of Wild Friends middle school students during the 1999 session. Their field trip was on the day the New Mexico House of Representatives voted 61-0 to pass House Joint Memorial 34, a Wild Friends memorial concerning cruelty to wildlife. The students from Moriarty Middle School seated in the House gallery received a standing ovation from the legislators. Wearing their bright turquoise t-shirts, they proudly represented all Wild Friends around the state who had worked so hard to get the memorial passed.
|From the Santa Fe Reporter, Feb 22, 1995|
Out of their Mouths: The state Senate chambers were filled with people in cowboy boots and people in Birkenstocks for last week's Conservation Committee hearing on two controversial bills that would limit the state's ability to enforce national or state endangered species laws.
A rather noisy showdown was anticipated. But the bills were second and third on the agenda. First on the agenda was a memorial, one of those non-binding proposals that just "expresses the intent" of the Legislature, sponsored by Conservation Committee Chairman Tom Rutherford, D-Albuquerque.
His witnesses were children, participants in an Albuquerque-based program called Wild Friends. The six youngsters aged 11 to 14 explained that they had written the "Common Ground" memorial. It asks the Legislature to reaffirm that the environment of New Mexico is important, and that adversarial and confrontational approaches to solving conflicts between the environment and the economy should be set aside in favor of finding areas of "common ground."
Eric Garcia, 14, of Albuquerque asked the committee (and waiting bill proponents/opponents) especially to notice the Wild Friends' first "whereas":
"Whereas, it is important for the youth of our state to witness their adult role models seeking to understand one another and to find ways to solve these environmental and human issues..."
The Conservation Committee gave the memorial a swift, unanimous do-pass recommendation. (It passed the Senate by a 42-0 vote Monday.)
Both sides admitted that with the little pitchers listening, the level of rancor in the subsequent bill hearing was lowered, and the anticipated angry bombast fizzled. The endangered species bills were tabled indefinitely.
"The arts ... have a power to promote a fundamental understanding of how the world is organized because they take into account human feelings as well as intellect."
--Dr. Michael Moore, Arts Unlimited, Bowling Green, Ohio.
From the early days of the Wild Friends program, students have created dances, written and performed plays, and created posters, paintings, sculptures and puppets to convey to the public their messages about wildlife. Through the arts, students learn to thoroughly explore a species, experience a sense of empathy, and appreciate the importance of humanity's efforts to protect wildlife. Their talents combine with the efforts of other Wild Friends students to raise public awareness. They perform in a variety of settings, including the state legislature, public meetings, wildlife conferences, festivals, schools, the zoo, and our own Wildlife Summit. Wild Friends dancers have even performed in committee hearings during the legislative session.
Students in the Wild Friends Dance Company, ages 6 to 14, select a focus animal, research its biology and habitat and the laws that affect it. Then they choreograph a dance, create costumes and poetry based on the animal. Through motion, music, light, colors, and textures, Wild Friends dancers have portrayed the miracle of whooping cranes, bald eagles, prairie dogs, rattlesnakes, and jaguars.
You can organize your dance troupe through your school's arts program, your university's or community college's dance department, or through a local dance studio. In New Mexico, the Wild Friends program collaborates with Dance Alegre, an Albuquerque-based intergenerational studio with ties to the University of New Mexico.
Wild Friends Dancers,
DanceAlegre! Inc. Albuquerque, NM
|During the last 15 years as an arts enthusiast in dance and education, I find each year to be more rewarding than the last, as is especially the case in working with the Wild Friends project. I've been the dance director of the Wild Friends Dancers since the fall of 1994 when Camy Condon asked me if I would be interested in creating dances concerning wildlife issues in New Mexico. . The idea of communicating wildlife needs of our state through modern dance performance tied in easily with my on-going program objective to bring children, educators and artists together in non-traditional performance venues. Through performance in the community -- in our case, the state legislature and capitol building -- many people are touched through thoughtful and meaningful dance "sharings" which are exciting, enticing and educational for all.|
My work with the Wild Friends project has not only enriched the lives of my 14 dancers (ages 6 through 14), individuals throughout the state have been deeply moved by the beautiful presentations of our company. The pieces presented thus far are: The Flight of the American Bald Eagle, The Ridge Nose Rattlesnake, The Journey of the Whooping Crane, and Eyes of Fire: The Borderlands Jaguar. In the making is a work concerning our state fish, the Cutthroat Trout.
Not only is the company a favorite at our legislature audiences, we have also presented our pieces at our city zoo, the annual city arts festival, Magnifico!, a recent district conference of the National Dance Association, the Wildlife Summit here in Albuquerque, and most recently, at the New Mexico Arts in Education Conference. In addition, we have worked with many other individuals in our community: a poet, a costumer, a lighting designer, and even a 70-year-old grandma who danced the part of the Most Great Jaguar.
What my young dancers learn not only happens in the preparation and presentation of dance works. They also learn the value of speaking for the creatures who cannot speak for themselves. They have developed a sense of empathy unsurpassed because they have "become" the creature through kinesthetic kinship. Additionally, they learn to stand for something and to be heard as well. They have not only danced in committee meetings and on the Senate floor, but have testified in legislative committee meetings -- all for fun. We look forward to creating our new season piece, not yet named, as well as to many more new season pieces in the future.
Dramatic plays have also played a prominent role in Wild Friends arts activities. Elementary school students have been particularly active in this area of the arts programs. They have written and performed plays ranging from historic depictions of whooping crane migration -- Operation: Save the Whooping Cranes -- to short vignettes of legislative scenarios.
Below is "A Political Lesson in Santa Fe," one of the short plays performed at the Rio Grande Zoo's Earth Day celebration. This play can a useful tool for generating discussion about the importance of finding common ground.
A Political Lesson in Santa Fe
NARRATOR:This is a play called "A Political Lesson in Santa Fe." The scene is the office of Senator Bushwack, chairman of the Senate Outdoor Committee. With him is Senator Goodranch. Speaker Sanchez, from the House of Representatives, comes in.
SPEAKER SANCHEZ: Some young people called Wild Friends are outside. You sent a message that you'd see them.
SENATOR BUSHWACK: What do they want?
SPEAKER SANCHEZ: They want the Senate to pass a bill to help protect endangered species. The House passed it..
SENATOR BUSHWACK: I demand a recount!
SENATOR GOODRANCH: We should believe Speaker Sanchez, and we should see the Wild Friends. After all, they're citizens.
SENATOR BUSHWACK: I hate wild animals. There's no room for them on my ranch!
SENATOR GOODRANCH: My sheep and steers share habitat with wild animals, and my meat brings the highest prices.
SENATOR BUSHWACK: All wild animals are pests -- especially wolves. They should be wiped out!
SENATOR GOODRANCH: Only one of my calves was ever killed by a wolf, and Defenders of Wildlife paid me for my calf.
SPEAKER SANCHEZ: Are you going to listen to the Wild Friends, and are you going to pass their bill to protect wildlife?
SENATOR BUSHWACK: No and no! I'll keep their bill in cold storage, and I don't want to hear any Wild Friends.
SENATOR GOODRANCH: We'll try again next year
SPEAKER SANCHEZ: I know Wild Friends will never give up!
[Playwrights: Jack Pickering, senior mentor, and Westside Community Center Wild Friends].
See the history chapter for other arts activities.
Grownups have their wildlife conferences; now the kids can have theirs, too. In New Mexico, Wild Friends created an annual summit to bring kids together from all over the state to celebrate another good year and to plan for the next, but above all, to provide these hard-working young people with a day of fun around issues of wildlife. A summit gives students, teachers, legislators, wildlife experts, lawyers, media, and mentors the chance to interact and learn from each other. The conference goal is to engage everyone in problem-solving, finding common ground on wildlife legal issues, and exploring ways to change our human and wildlife relationships for the better.
Check the appendices for examples of a summit program, newsletter, and newspaper articles about our past wildlife summits. Big or small, here are some pointers if you want to create your own wildlife summit.
Before the Summit:
1. Make a budget
2. Get sponsors
3. Have a brainstorming session - prepare a time line
4. Reserve a meeting facility - make sure they accept live animals!
5. Request audio-visual equipment
6. Obtain supplies of posters, etc. for participants
7. Plan snacks and supplies
8. Make catering arrangements to staff lunches.
9. Parking considerations (school buses, guests, etc.)
10. Plan badges
11. Plan agenda - including breakout sessions if applicable
12. Recruit presenters and VIPs - including live animal presentations - make sure to inquire about any audio-visual needs they may have - request bios for introductions
13. Prepare and print conference program
14. Prepare invitation letters to participants, media, guests, etc.
15. Write and send press releases
16. Pre-register students, teachers, etc. - don't forget to ask about special needs
17. Make arrangements for any necessary school transportation (buses, etc.)
18. Arrange for staffing of conference, including volunteers - make individual assignments such as registration desk, meeting and assisting presenters and special guests
19. Designate someone to take photographs. Have cameras and film ready.
20. Find volunteers for lighting.
Day before or morning of conference, remind media contacts of event
Coordinate with facility staff regarding special arrangements for the day such as chair placement, making sure that microphones are turned on, that all the equipment is on site.
The Big Day
1. Arrive early to meet staff and volunteers, set up registration tables and put out materials and badges.
2. Make sure someone meets animals handlers and live-animal presenters.
3. Greet the VIPs and other arrivals, teachers, student groups.
4. Get everybody in the right place and seated. Have a place to stow everyone's lunches.
5. Make announcements.
6. Coordinate with student volunteers, the MC, audio-visual staff, live animal presenters.
7. Have volunteers briefed and trained for dealing with the steady traffic of people and animals performers coming and going.
Following the Summit:
1. Write thank you letters to presenters and others.
2. Pay bills.
3. Take a few days off!
The best time to wrap up your season is at the end of the school year. As Earth Day occurs in April, an Earth Day event is a natural. Piggyback with a booth or an already-occurring fair or trade show. Or have an Earth Day event of your own at your school or community center.
The end of the school year is also an excellent time to wrap up a petition drive and plan a get-together to present the signed petitions. New Mexico Wild Friends from several schools collected thousands of signatures on the petition you see on the facing page.
Make Certificates of Appreciation for your volunteers, students, legislators, teachers, and anyone else who contributed in a huge or pivotal way to the success of your Wild Friends year. Frame the certificates and present them at an award ceremony. See an example on the next page. Recipients will be surprised and thrilled!
Have your students write Thank You letters to people who helped you, made presentations, carried your bill - in other words, everyone!
Evaluation of the Wild Friends Experience
Students, mentors and parents should be asked to evaluate the Wild Friends program. For example, how do students' attitudes and activities differ from when they began the program? Do they seem more interested in issues outside of themselves? Do they speak or write more clearly? Are they less shy or withdrawn? Do they have new interest in potential careers? Will they vote when they are old enough? As a result of several years of participating in the legislative process, some veteran New Mexico Wild Friends report that they want to run for office. Some want to become attorneys or wildlife biologists.
Evaluation information will prove invaluable if you are called upon to prepare accountability reports, evaluation summaries for school administrators, sponsors, or funders.
|Generations Unlimited||Wild Friends, Heroes Young and Old|
Senior mentors and kids tackle wildlife issues from bald eagles to trout, from wolves to whooping cranes, and together formulate ways to get the attention of lawmakers. Wildlife conservation is an ideal that unites school students and senior citizens from whose vast experience and wisdom the kids can draw and benefit. It appeals to gifted kids as well as those on the edge of dropping out of school.
Eighty-two year old Jack Pickering has been a Wild Friend mentor since the program's inception eight years ago. "I have so much faith and hope in these kids' ability to come up with solutions that have eluded our leaders," says Jack. Jack is a good listener, unhurried, takes time with the students, proving once again that there is a human empathy between an older and younger person working together for a common goal. Volunteer senior mentors have time to give. They see the bigger picture.
Says program director Carolyn Byers, "Studying civics can be dry and boring, but the drafting and working their own bills through the legislature generates real drama and excitement." New Mexico Speaker of the House Raymond Sanchez agrees. He mentors the students through the political process and says often that he is proud to be the one giving them "their first lesson in how the government works."
The program was the brainchild of longtime intergenerational advocate Paul Nathanson, the director of the University of New Mexico's Institute of Public Law which houses the Center for Wildlife Law, the "wild parent" of Wild Friends. Outreach coordinator Camy Condon saw connections between "wildly" active senior citizens, "wild" kids-- whether at-risk or more broadly all kids full of energy and ideas-- and the "wild" animals. "The teens rescue wild critters while older adults rescue kids at risk;" says Camy, "and together they are heroic participants in the legislative process of their state government." It is a formula for success, for making the world a better place, and for producing young adults who will vote.
From the beginning, Wild Friends has been an intergenerational program. The exchange of skills, knowledge and experience between adults and young is less and less common in our society, and our nation is the poorer for it. Those who have had experiences with mentoring youth, as well as with nature and wildlife have much to offer and are ideal recruits for intergenerational activities. Caring older persons who want to help young people and wild animals often have both time and enthusiasm to share.
Wild Friends volunteers, both adults and senior adults, participate in many of the general wildlife education sessions and field trips, and can lead their own sessions on special topics. We recommend pairing volunteers with small groups of students to work on projects, animal and nature demonstrations, letter writing, collecting signatures for memorials, craft projects such as making and operating puppets, and visiting classrooms. For example, a retired surgeon, who liked to be called "Batman", worked with three youth in the bat cave exhibit at the city's natural history museum.
Our most involved senior, Jack Pickering, is a retired editor who heard about Wild Friends on a noon TV interview program. As an avid supporter of wildlife protection issues, he has not only worked with hundreds of Wild Friends students, but he has adopted, and for several years has been a mentor to, students at Polk Middle School in Albuquerque.
Lois Taylor, Legislative Analyst for New Mexico Speaker of the House Raymond Sanchez, made the effort to be a real mentor to the Wild Friends students during the 1999 legislative session. Although busy with over 100 bills that the speaker was sponsoring, Lois took the time to invite the students into the speaker's office, get them drinks and snacks, and sit on the floor with them for almost an hour while she explained the legislative process, the progress on their memorial, and other details of legislation. She answered all of the students' questions carefully and thoughtfully, and she made them feel important and respected.
We recommend that if possible you offer one or more training sessions for interested volunteers to them about about your program and encouraged them to join. Even if they can only attend a few Wild Friends sessions and can only work with a couple of students, your program will be enriched by their participation.
1. Bring together diverse elements of the local community that are not usually in contact with each other. For example, involve youth advocates; city, county and state agencies, senior citizen activity directors; and wildlife education experts.
2. Personally invite knowledgeable retirees who have special insight and commitment to working with youth and/or wildlife/nature themes. Find people who know about the mutual benefits of older adults interacting with youth. The Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP) and United Way are good places to start.
3. Introduce a variety of interesting materials and techniques. Live animal presentations, skits, role plays, video tapes and short films, printed materials, graphics, quizzes, posters, puppets, etc., make your subject come to life.
4. The more interaction at all levels, the better. Having representatives from both adult and youth groups participate in every activity will enhance the process of creating persuasive and meaningful wildlife and environmental messages for the entire community.
5. Motivate the participants by letting them know that the successful project will really make a difference to the survival and wellbeing of wildlife, and to the well-being and commitment to community of the kids.
6. If your budget permits, provide some money to participants for materials, transportation, group designated activities or award events.
The initial Wild Friends program was conducted from August 1991 through July 1992, in selected rural and semi-rural communities in the greater Albuquerque, New Mexico area. The following chapter provides a history of the development of the Wild Friends program, which was initially funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Our first step was to compile a list of various community organizations working with youth, seniors and/or wildlife that might have interest in and resources for supporting the Wild Friends program. We then began telephoning and writing these organizations. Over the course of the first year, Center staff contacted representatives from the following organizations:
Albuquerque Area Senior Centers
Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Dept.
Albuquerque Public Schools (APS)
APS Environmental Education Center
Albuquerque Wildlife Federation
Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service/4-H
Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation After School Program
Desert Hills Center for Youth and Families
Environmental Education Association of New Mexico
Jerry's Pet Shops of New Mexico
New Mexico Game and Fish Department
(Project Wild! and Aquatic Wild!)
New Mexico Law-Related Education
New Mexico Museum of Natural History
New Mexico State Legislators
Office of Senior Affairs Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)
Rio Grande Nature Center
Rio Grande Zoo
Seldom Seen Expeditions
Talking Talons Youth Leadership, Inc.
The Tracking Project
The Visitor Hospitality Center (Central NM Correctional Facility-Los Lunas)
Trespassers William Children's Bookstore
University of New Mexico College of Education
University of New Mexico Children's Psychiatric Center
University of New Mexico's "One-On-One" Mentoring Program
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service U.S. Forest Service
Wild Birds Unlimited and Nature Shop
Wildlife Rescue, Inc.
YWCA Environmental Discovery Camp
Many of these organizations are local offices of national organizations, while others are organizations unique to the Albuquerque community. We emphasized at the outset that the Wild Friends program is a collaborative effort which draws on the creative effort and the existing agendas of the people and organizations within a community.
Wild Friends staff consisted of a program director, an intergenerational outreach coordinator, and a program coordinator. An advisory board comprised of nine representatives from various community organizations was formed, and initial program sites and students were selected. Efforts were also begun to recruit senior volunteers.
With the cooperation and assistance of the Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation Department (BCPR) After School Program staff, about 60 students, ages 9 to 12, were hand-picked to participate in the first Wild Friends semester program.
To interest and recruit voluntary sign-ups for the program two "grand openings" were planned. Complete with live animals, a Wild Friends rap song performed by an ex-gang member, and a sampling of program offerings, the grand opening events were publicized and held at each of these community centers to introduce the program to students and their families.
On completion of the fall semester of Wild Friends, the youth were presented with Wild Friends certificates. A letter and a survey form were mailed to parents to elicit feedback on the program. (Samples of these forms and other program activity materials can be found in Appendix X.)
During the break between fall and spring semesters, we prepared a spring schedule for the two participating Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation Department community centers; the department also requested that we add another community center. The center's students attended a year-round school which created special scheduling considerations. Center staff coordinated an intensive week-long Wild Friends program which was presented to about 100 students during two weeks of the school's early spring "intersession" period between classes.
In January, two teachers from Delores Gonzales Elementary School in the South Valley requested that 20 fifth-grade students be allowed to participate in the Wild Friends program. The teachers were particularly interested in the idea of integrating the Wild Friends program into their daily class curriculum. Throughout the spring, wildlife and citizenship facts and issues were creatively woven into the students' math and science word problems, as well as in reading and creative writing assignments.
At the end of the spring program, students received Wild Friends certificates. Additionally, Wild Friends Certificates of Appreciation were presented to involved individuals and board members.
Wild Jobs Survey
In a Wild Friends mini-internship project, "Wild Friends Wild Jobs," three middle school Hispanic teenagers were interns in a project to interest teens in jobs and careers in the field of wildlife preservation, education, and advocacy. The teens were provided with clipboards and survey forms for interviews of career professionals (sample forms are included in Appendix X).They interviewed the director of the Center for Wildlife Law; a museum shop sales clerk, a security guard and a docent at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History; and a recreation specialist at the Westside Community Center.
Wildlife Education Presentations
Many national wildlife education programs have state chapters that could be tapped for this project. Project Wild is a well known national wildlife education program with branch organizations in most states. A New Mexico Game & Fish officer and a speaker from Aquatic Wild each presented lively, informative programs.
Live Animal Presentations
Local presenters from HawkWatch International; the Rio Grande Zoo; Talking Talons Youth Leadership, Inc.; and Wildlife Rescue, Inc. presented programs featuring live animals. Ranging from owls, falcons and red-tailed hawks to ferrets, prairie dogs, bats and a variety of snakes, the animals fascinated everyone. Jerry's Pet Shops of New Mexico treated the Wild Friends to a live presentation of rare, exotic animals such as the scarlet macaw and the Anaconda python. Members of Albuquerque's Sierra Club and the Mexican Wolf Coalition provided slide shows on mountain lions and wolves.
Citizenship and Law-Related Education
During their field trips to the law school, the Wild Friends began to learn about what law school is, what lawyers do, how the legislature operates and how to begin the process of writing laws to protect wildlife. One state legislator guided the Wild Friends through the discussion and drafting of potential bills. The director of the Institute of Public Law conducted sessions on how to discover the identities of lawmakers, how to find out what issues interest them, how to contact them, and how to get support for a bill or other cause. Types of wildlife laws were discussed with Center for Wildlife Law director Ruth Musgrave, especially laws protecting endangered wildlife species.
Wild Friends Panel Interview
Senior mentor John Pickering was particularly helpful in educating the Wild Friends students about the legislative process, interviewing their representatives, and drafting actual legislation. Mr. Pickering organized a student interview of two district representatives at community center. Four Wild Friends students formed the panel. Two girls and two boys each read aloud various questions to the representatives regarding their positions on the environment and legislative decision-making, while Jack served as moderator. The room was filled to capacity with other students, who followed the discussion with many questions.
Wild Friends Memorial
A legislator, Rep. Cisco McSorley, volunteered his time to help students draft a "Wild Friends memorial" for the New Mexico legislative session. He guided the students through the process of how legislation is created. He had them appear before the House and the Senate to testify on behalf of their memorial. Rep. McSorley also sponsored the memorial and arranged for co-sponsors. Most of the Wild Friends students reported that writing real legislation and traveling to Santa Fe to testify before committees was the highlight of their school year.
Writing effective letters was the focus of another activity. Following a lively debate about national wildlife issues, the students and seniors were divided into two groups. One group wrote letters to the president of the U.S. regarding their wildlife concerns. (They later received from the White House Pres. Bush's brochure describing what the presidency does.) Other Wild Friends wrote letters to middle school students in Australia regarding wildlife in New Mexico, and requested information about wildlife and endangered species in Australia.
A Wild Friends program featured the U.S. Department of Interior's "Suitcases for Survival," at the Rio Grande Zoo. A zoo docent traveled to each community center to display and discuss the suitcase's contents, items such as an elephant tusk, a pair of sea turtle boots and an African Dwarf Crocodile purse, all of which came from endangered species. Harmless "copy-cat" items, such as simulated ivory and tortoise shell products and fake fur, were also included for comparison purposes. All of the natural items had been confiscated by customs inspectors. There are 35 such suitcases distributed around the country for educational purposes.
The Rio Grande Zoo's educational consultant worked with Wild Friends staff to design educational opportunities for the students and seniors. A particularly successful activity involved going "behind the scenes" to learn about jobs and careers, of which there are a total of 40 at the Rio Grande Zoo. Students and seniors met the veterinarian, the diet room technician, the general curator, the curator of mammals, and various docents. The students and seniors ended their backstage tour by meeting and touching live alpacas. Wild Friends were allowed a sneak preview of two endangered white tiger cubs, later presented to the general public.
A child psychiatrist who served on our advisory board helped prepare the Wild Friends for "people observing" at the zoo. Wild Friends teams were provided with survey forms designed to generate discussion about human behavior and the value of rules which protect both people and animals (see Appendix ).
The Tracking Project
Wild Friends had the opportunity to work with John Stokes, director of The Tracking Project. The project is dedicated to helping people and communities through awareness of the "natural arts." Stokes and his team of traditional Native American elders and guest artists travel throughout the United States to bring music, storytelling, dance, tracking and survival skills to both adults and children. During two sessions devoted to survival skills, Stokes, whose background includes living among the Australian Aborigines for many years, taught Wild Friends rudimentary tracking skills and traditional ways to build a fire without matches.
Modeling Educational Puppetry
The use of puppets helped bring to life the messages and creativity of all participants. Puppets became an educational tool and a means of capturing the attention of youth and adults, as well as a way in which to extend the experiences of small groups to wider audiences. The Wild Friends puppets were a combination of handmade, youth-designed and produced, as well as lifelike wildlife puppets purchased at an educational discount from a commercial puppet manufacturer. At Wild Friends grand openings, puppet programs involved staff, mentors, educators and youth in understanding the goals of the Wild Friends and were used as a means to capture the attention and encourage active participation of all age groups. A simple educational puppet stage was used to allow volunteers to try out animal puppet characters and create Wild Friends messages.
On another occasion, two professional puppeteers and two senior mentors presented a successful show and puppet making workshop. The students created their own characters. Additional puppets were made in the spring to act out the scripts written by both classroom Wild Friends from Dolores Gonzales Elementary School and Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation after-school Wild Friends.
Field trips to the state capital also included puppets. The puppets were carried into the legislative committee meetings and onto the Senate floor in the Capital Building. The puppets were an effective tool to call attention to Wild Friends issues and the content of the Wild Friends memorial. One boy wore his puppet on his shoulder and hat everywhere he went. The puppets presented an ideal medium for press coverage for the Wild Friends legislative activities, and the Wild Friends students with their wildlife puppets were featured on the CBS-affiliate television station's evening news program.
On Earth Day in 1992, 35 Wild Friends students presented their original stories and performed in a borrowed stage on the zoo grounds. Additional participants included students from two volunteer first and second grade classes who opened the show with their twelve-foot display of recycled trash and an Earth Day song.
During year one, our staff worked with librarians in three rural settings. Librarians arranged exhibits of books about wildlife issues and invited particular youth groups to attend the Wild Friends sessions. Several teachers were invited to bring classes and did preparatory work in the classroom ahead of time, including skit writing and simple puppet making. Handouts and books on display provided some suggested activities. In two situations, library patrons with younger children became involved and asked for additional opportunities to connect with Wild Friends.
Samples of Mentor "Pocket Programs"
Several of the Wild Friends mentors had special interests and/or hobbies they wanted to share with the students:
John Pickering had just moved to New Mexico from Pennsylvania, where he had been active in environmental issues on the national and local levels. He was a mentor to the students, leading them through interviews with legislators, helping them to write letters and to practice appearing before legislative committees.
Fred Holzworth, M.D., a retired surgeon and natural history advocate, introduced a team of youth to the docent work of educating the public about the subject of bats, and the Bat Cave at the New Mexico Museum of Natural Science and History. Dr. Holzworth's efforts led to an Earth Day skit about bats that was dedicated to him by his students.
Janet Harris, a retired high school English teacher, and Raymond Housh, also a retired teacher, participated in Wild Friends because of their interest in puppetry. Both visited several sites throughout the program and demonstrated puppets, puppet making and puppet movement. Mrs. Harris also assisted with script writing styles.
Mandy Pino, a senior citizen whose background includes a biology degree and prior teaching experience, led a group discussion on the subject of snakes, emphasizing endangered species, with 50 youth. She reported four students decided to study snakes for their school science fair projects.
Joseph Price arranged for a special tour of the FAA Air Traffic Control Center. Almost all airports worldwide must deal with specific wildlife problems: animals and birds on runways create dangerous problems for planes taking off and landing.
As Year One drew to a close, our staff met with the Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation Department staff regarding their leadership of Year Two activities. As their staff had already done much of the work of making the first year of Wild Friends a success, they enthusiastically agreed to take over the organization and implementation of the second year of Wild Friends in the greater Albuquerque community.
Following are excerpts from an evaluative study of the Wild Friends pilot project conducted during year one by Breda Bova, Ph.D., and Mary Cunning, of the College of Education, The University of New Mexico.
In the opinion of the evaluators the Wild Friends program achieved its year one goals in highly creative ways that went beyond the scope of the proposal. Many excellent activities were undertaken that expanded the knowledge of wildlife conservation and improved the life and leadership skills among the children.
The Wild Friends program highlights for 1991-1992 included:
1. The research, writing and development of House Joint Memorial 4 by the students with assistance from the mentors and teachers;
2. Two trips to Santa Fe during the legislative session to testify regarding House Joint Memorial 4 and wildlife conservation. These trips included invited testimony before legislators both in committees as well as in general sessions;
3. A deeper understanding and appreciation by the students of the legislative process and the benefits of community involvement;
4. Intergenerational activities with the students and their senior mentors. These relationships were mutually beneficial. Both senior citizens and the students learned much about each other;
5. A great deal of community involvement with the program. The community centers became advocates for the program and provided transportation, supplies and Wild Friends t-shirts. The Rio Grande Zoo was also an active participant, giving the children the opportunity to preview exhibits, to view facilities, food preparation and animals off-limits to the general public, and to meet and talk with various employees;
6. Media coverage for many of the Wild Friends program events was excellent. It included television as well as newspaper stories;
7. Activities that the children participated in such as the development of Earth Day puppet shows at the Zoo and working with the Zoo docents, helped them to gain valuable knowledge about wildlife which they later presented to other school groups touring the Zoo. These student presenters now have the opportunity to become Junior Zoo Docents,
8. These activities helped the children develop personal visions for future potential jobs.
During the first year of the program, students and mentors learned about and shared knowledge of the environment, animal habitat, wild animal life in various settings, and the complex problems with regard to law and wildlife conservation. The students had numerous opportunities to discuss and debate these issues in a variety of settings. Some of the settings included: the development of Earth Day puppet shows at the Rio Grande Zoo, trips to the legislative session in Santa Fe, and panel discussions with State Representatives and students. In addition to a greater understanding of the area of wildlife conservation, relationships of respect, trust and understanding were developed among students and mentors as they worked, studied, or planned projects and participated in numerous events together. There were many incidences where a heightened sense of self esteem and responsibility were noted.
The evaluation of the program had both quantitative and qualitative components. Surveys were given to the participants to ascertain achievement of the stated program goals. Participant observation and interviews were also a major part of the evaluation. It was the utilization of this data that captured in the participants' own words the essence of the program. In the area of wildlife conservation, relationships of respect, trust and understanding were developed among students and mentors as they worked, studied, or planned projects and participated in numerous events together. There were many incidences where a heightened sense of self-esteem and responsibility was noted.
The accomplishments of the Wild Friends program have been described and discussed. All those involved with the year-long Wild Friends program should be commended for many hours of hard work and commitment to community involvement in the program, especially intergenerational involvement. From interviews and observations the strengths of the program were found to lie in the following areas:
- Active introductions of students to the legislative process and community involvement.
- Presentations and field trips that focused on various aspects of wildlife conservation in an entertaining and age-appropriate way.
- The degree and nature of the audience participation with wildlife conservation, with each other in like-aged groups and with another generation in intergenerational age groups.
- The raising of the level of awareness on the part of the students as to the importance of wildlife conservation.
- The tremendous involvement of numerous community groups, both local affiliates of national organizations and others unique in the Albuquerque area. Wild Friends was truly a collaborative effort.
The following forms and worksheets are will be offered very soon and may be photocopied and printed as needed.
Wild Friends Certificate
How to Write a Public Service Announcement
How to Write a Press Release
Summer Idea Sheet
Wild Jobs Informational Interview
Just Say Know
Wildlife Law Awareness Questionnaire
Researching a Wildlife Law
Wild Friends at the Zoo