By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
KILDARE — The field behind the Kildare Public School (KPS) playground is used for a variety of student activities, including football games and tag outside the classroom. Friday afternoon, Oct. 22, it was the Great Outdoors as the students learned many outdoor and survival skills in what is hoped may be the first of many wildlife expos held at the school.
The event was the result of a canceled outdoor exhibition in Guthrie, Okla., sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC), which the school had attended for many years. Due to COVID-19, it has been cancelled the past couple of years, which frustrated school leaders. That frustration led KPS to hold their own local wildlife expo.
“The ODWC holds, every year, a state expo in Guthrie, and because of the pandemic, they cancelled it last year, and this year, so we thought it’d be nice if we had one for our students,” said Superintendent Bruce Shelley. “We had local individuals who had the expertise to hold one locally.”
Newkirk native Jason Grace was the first person they turned to for putting on the program.
“KPS approached me to come help them, and I volunteered my time. We met, and put it together,” Grace said. “The Wildlife Department (ODWC) has a lot of resources we utilized for the event.”
Jason’s brother, Spencer, also helped, as he has put together other such outdoor programs. Spencer serves as the ODWC Kay County game warden. Programs have been offered at area schools, as well as organizations, such as 4-H clubs.
“There are a number of resources available to the school through the (ODWC),” Spencer said. “We do programs for other organizations, as well; kids can go to libraries and see skulls and skins programs.”
A variety of educators participated. Jason Grace taught students in processing deer meat. Spencer Grace worked with the ODWC for archery lessons. Liz Nicholson and Go-Getters 4-H member Trevor Morton gave the students a variety of wild bird tips. School supporter Tammy Ross taught on bee and honey production. KPS teacher Zach Heitschmidt taught the students camping and survival skills, and the Kildare Fire Department was also on hand for risks of fires.
There was much to learn from each group, as students gleamed something they could use in their real lives.
“I think it went really good. (Morton) did a great job. He taught a predator and prey demonstration, and he taught the children on how to tell if it is a predator or prey, based on the skull,” Nicholson said. “He went over the most common birds in Oklahoma, and how to make a pinecone-based feeder that is safe for the birds.”
The archery aspect may have been the most popular event at the expo.
“Everyone who participated (in archery) showed enthusiasm,” Spencer Grace said. “The great thing about shooting archery, or shotguns, is you don’t have a be a super athlete to be a great shot.”
Those involved in the program are happy with the turnout.
“It was fun, real-life learning into some things they may be able to use in the future,” Shelley said. “The kids seemed to enjoy it, and had a wonderful day.”