GAMBIER — Members of the Wiggin Street Animal Club, the pupils in the both morning and afternoon kindergarten classes, are learning about wildlife in the neighborhood and discovering which foods attract each animal.
Under the guidance of teacher Lori Zolman and assistant Amy Kamp, the budding biologists put food (much of it donated) out each school morning and afternoon and watch to see “who’s coming to dinner.” When the News visited, the morning class enthusiastically — as well as knowledgeably — talked about their animal friends.
So far, feathered visitors to the school include at least one of the following: Goldfinch, chickadee, three types of woodpeckers and a blue jay. One lad said a cardinal is a frequent guest, and that is important, he added, because it is the state bird of Ohio. Class members were also able to distinguish between a male and female cardinal and other types of birds. From watching a nuthatch, a young girl said, the kindergartners learned it is the only bird which walks upside down, down a tree trunk. One titmouse actually entered the kindergarten room in search of goodies, and Earl and Pearl Squirrel often try to snatch nuts from the windowsill as the children watch. Sam Laymon said a lot of neighborhood cats also come around sometimes, which is not good. The cats try to get the birds because cats are predators, he explained.
The youngsters have also learned which animals go for which foods. They said squirrels eat peanuts and another nuts; the birds like bird feed, thistle seed or suet; skunks seem to prefer Honey Comb cereal and the raccoons chow down on the food leftover from lunch. Amazingly, the birds wait for breakfast until the kindergarten class refills the feeders each morning, and some even return to “reward” the afternoon class for their efforts as well.
In an effort to determine exactly which critters come to each feeding station around the school, Animal Club personnel spread sand under and around each spot. They then took plaster of Paris casts of the fauna footprints found in the sand the next day.
The pupils will take the casts back to the classroom and look in a wildlife tracks book to see exactly which type of animal had stopped in for a snack and add that information to the charts, graphs and narratives they are keeping.
In an effort to keep feeding costs down, Zolman said, the Animal Club hopes to be able grow a garden in the spring with specific wildlife attracting plants. The students mentioned a few specific plants, such as pine bushes and corn. She said that garden will also give shyer animals a place of concealment and hopes that will bring even more species to the school area.