Among the elephants, giraffes, and alligators, another familiar sight during Audubon Institute’s Earth Fest weekend is the Hurst Wetland Watchers group.“I think it is important that kids visiting the zoo for Earth Fest see our young people so involved so my students can serve as role models as examples that even at a young age you can do something to make a difference,” said Barry Guillot, eighth-grade earth science teacher at Harry Hurst Middle School.
More than 8,000 visitors attended this year’s festival April 1.
For over 17 years, Wetland Watcher student volunteers have been on hand to present information about wetland values, wetland animals and even scat identification with the popular “Who Dat Scat” game where visitors match the scat (replica poop) to the animal they think it belongs to.
Student presenters also facilitated different crafts for the guests. This year besides applying frog tattoos, they helped kids and adults fish print, which is a Japanese art form called Gyotaku. A thin coat of ink over the fish mold scales is enough to leave a perfect image on paper.
Before Guillot started teaching at the school 23 years ago, he worked for the Audubon Institute writing education programs for the Aquarium.
“When I started the Wetland Watchers, I thought the Audubon Zoo Earth Fest would be the perfect venue for my students to share what they have learned with others, but also get to go meet other people who do these jobs for a living and see what is going on to keep our environment healthy,” he said.
Guillot said he’s proud of having so many young people interested in volunteering.
“The students get so excited about sharing and I hope this passion for service remains with them as they grow older,” he said. “One of my favorite quotes was by Albert Einstein, ‘Only a life in the service of others is a life worth living.’”