Fossil Rim’s education department formed an exciting partnership that involved teenagers volunteering for conservation this summer.
A group of seven teens from the Dallas-Fort Worth area visited the Children’s Animal Center (CAC) for a very helpful painting project. The crew was from Audubon Conservation Treks, a program created by Trinity River Audubon Center (TRAC) in Dallas. Fossil Rim Visitor Programs Supervisor Will Baker was on the scene to help the group paint the aviaries that are home to Fossil Rim’s exotic birds.
“Our group is called Audubon Conservation Treks, and we’re a multi-day camping program that facilitates environmental stewardship and habitat restoration,” said TRAC Academic Programs Manager Kayleigh Bucur. “We take Title 1 high school students from across the Metroplex to these beautiful and amazing places throughout Texas, and we want to instill in our students how they can impact the environment. They can take those lessons back to the Metroplex and hopefully lead in their communities when it comes to recycling and other valuable activities.”
Bucur explained how the group ended up at Fossil Rim.
“We were already planning to camp at (nearby) Dinosaur Valley (State Park), and we are trying out a new tiered experience – three days, two nights – for students who have maybe never been out of the Metroplex or never been camping,” she said. “I’d been to Fossil Rim earlier this year, and when planning this trip, I was thinking about the great conservation efforts here – we hit upon some of the same pillars in our mission. I reached out to the new director of education, Jennifer (Arledge), and I asked if this is a partnership we can foster as we try to instill environmental stewardship and appreciation in our students.”
The last time an Audubon Conservation Treks group visited the CAC, they transplanted bluestem grass into the enclosure for the resident Attwater’s prairie chicken.
“This is the first day for this group to be together,” Bucur said. “We met up at (TRAC) at 6 a.m., hopped in the van, and on the drive here we played some ‘get to know you’ games. Will did an intro to Fossil Rim when we arrived and talked about conservation and the importance of our contributions. The Fossil Rim team has been really helpful in problem solving and meeting the goals of our program while also aligning with the projects that they need done.”
She said Audubon Conservation Treks experiences range from five days and four nights to an overnight stay at TRAC. Bucur was planning to take 14 students on a trip to Lost Maples State Natural Area (Vanderpool), Garner State Park (Concan), and Devil’s Sinkhole State Natural Area (Rocksprings).
“We go all over the state,” she said.
All of the students in the group were on their first Audubon Conservation Treks trip – except one. Ashton Smith is a student at Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Oak Cliff.
“The Audubon Center (staff) goes to different schools and gives you the chance to sign up for this on your own,” Smith said. “You can also sign up online. They came to my school and I decided to sign up.”
As Smith talked about the trip, it was clear he really enjoys the opportunity to partake in new experiences.
“Trips like these are definitely a lot different (than the Dallas area) because we have to do everything ourselves now,” he said. “I am used to eating precooked food, but on this trip we’ll be preparing our own ingredients and finding some of our foods, using new resources (at the state park). This is my first time at Fossil Rim; I like the wildlife here (at the CAC) – the emus, (exotic) birds.
“The goats are friendly. I wanted to come here. I’ve painted in art class before, but this is my first time to do a (beautification) painting project.”
Baker explained why volunteer groups like this mean so much to Fossil Rim staff.
“When it comes to volunteer groups coming out who can tackle a big project, it leaves our employees free to take care of their daily projects, or maybe even deal with tasks they wouldn’t otherwise have time for,” he said. “This is a good-sized group to take on the task of painting, which prevents a single individual potentially taking much longer to do it later on. If I go to any staff member in any department, they have a whole list of projects and tasks they want to be able to accomplish.
“This group will cross a couple of items off the list for (CAC Supervisor) Kristina (Borgstrom), and that helps everyone. Being a nonprofit, we always appreciate that extra manpower.”
The teens did not seem to mind the summer sun too much as they focused on painting the aviaries for the blue and gold macaws and the eclectus parrot.
“This group, as well as the previous group that came out from Trinity River – they are hard workers who put their best foot forward,” Baker said. “They want to be out here, and I see them getting the message of conservation by the effort they put into their work. It reminds me of the work ethic we have at Fossil Rim in general, so I think it’s great we have this partnership.”
CAC Specialist Jason Moden was certainly happy to see the Audubon group in action.
“Kristina told me the Audubon group was coming in to paint the aviaries, which will help them last longer,” Moden said. “I made sure they had the paint supplies they needed. We appreciate the work a different Audubon group did for our prairie chicken area.
“When we get a big group of volunteers to tackle a project like this, it’s really helpful. It saves us a lot more time compared to what we would need to paint the aviaries ourselves, plus we can focus on general animal care and educating the guests who come in.”
-Tye Chandler, Marketing Associate