Getting a feel for nature

MUKILTEO – The fourth-grade kids at Endeavor Elementary School could hardly contain their excitement when a guest speaker in their class pulled out a pair of great horned owl wings.

The children knew they would get to see the giant wings up close, and be able to touch them.

Other real animal parts were passed around: a cougar skull, black bear fur, the talons of a hawk. One girl smiled and grimaced simultaneously as she felt the tips of the hawk’s talons with the end of her finger.

The show-and-tell session by the Lynnwood-based Progressive Animal Welfare Society is a way of using animals that have died a natural death to teach about the area’s wildlife.

Three years ago, PAWS humane education coordinator Julie Stonefelt began using her education in taxidermy to preserve some of the animal parts, she said.

As the collection grew over the past couple of years, PAWS has taken the parts to schools and other groups as a way to educate children about wild animals.

“This way you can engage a child’s senses,” Stonefelt said. “We’re not just spewing facts at them.”

PAWS volunteer Sandy Warner’s visit to the class Wednesday was her fourth in a series of six, in which she’s teaching kids how to handle pets, farm animals and wild animals.

The rule on handling wild animals, she said, is easy: Don’t.

If it appears an animal might need help, “get an adult and have them call PAWS or animal control,” Warner told the children.

Teacher Kelley Fernandez said the kids have responded well to the talks.

“She is just amazing,” she said of Warner, “what she’s taught the kids and what I’m learning – things I thought I already knew.”

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or sheets@heraldnet.com.

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