NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- How much material is needed to build a release pen for squirrels? And, what's a release pen, anyway?
Regina Simoes, a math teacher at Isaac E. Young Middle School knows, and now so do her students.
When Simoes's students showed an interest in her work as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, she was happy to share her knowledge with them. She created The Wildlife Rehabilitation Learning Experience, a unique study program that is part conservationism, part mathematical reasoning, and combines hands-on learning with study materials provided free by the New York State Department of Conservation.
"The kids love it," said Simoes. "They're learning about rehabilitating different animals, including squirrels - my specialty - pigeons and raptors. Most importantly, they are learning to have compassion."
The group of 34 students also met Maura Mandrano, another licensed wildlife rehabilitator, earlier this year as they began helping to rehabilitate a group of squirrels. While they did not handle the animals directly, students learned what type of formula they drink, how to weigh and bottle feed them, and where to house them during the rehabilitation. Most importantly, they learned how to release the squirrels once they're healthy.
To create a release pen, the students will calculate both perimeter and surface area to determine its overall size, and the amount of wire covering needed to keep their furry friends safe for their return to the wild.
The experience has led the students to become more engaged with the natural world, and also in the classroom.
"We have a bond now," said Simoes, "and the children are more attentive in class because I have this connection with them."
Every student is excited to continue the program into the spring and to do his or her part to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the animals and their habitats.