Need a date? Try Wildlife Wednesdays!
by Nicole Schmitt
Director of Programs and Development at the Alaska Wildlife Alliance
My first impression of Ellie was her confidence –“I’m here on a science date with my mom, where is the coloring?”
It was a dark January night and we were welcoming the public to our first Wildlife Wednesday presentation in Anchorage. Eye-level with the welcome table, five-year old Ellie wrote her name on the sign-in sheet and waited for me to give directions to the free donuts (generously donated by Dipper Donuts) and wildlife coloring/craft station. Her mom, Kaity, and family friend, Hanna, looked through our citizen science materials, grabbed a brochure, and followed Ellie’s lead to the table of treats. As they settled into their seats, I knew we needed to learn more about this “science date”.
Every month, Kaity, Hanna, and Ellie journey to the BP Energy Center to listen to our wildlife presenters. The topics are diverse: “Wildlife Crime Scene Investigation”, “Sea Otters”, “Using Drones to Monitor Marine Wildlife in Alaska”, just to name a few. I asked Kaity some questions about this tradition.
Tell us about your Wildlife Wednesday crew— who are on your “science dates”?
“I am a science teacher at Service High School (10 years)- I teach biomedical sciences and biology- and Hanna is a filmmaker. Hanna and I have known each other since we were 2! We grew up on the same cul de sac. Ellie is 5 and will be starting kindergarten in the fall. I also have two other kids, a 2-year-old girl and 6-month-old boy.”
Why science dates?
“I have three kids and home and wanted to do something special with the oldest since she doesn't get much attention these days. She loves "science" (maybe because she knows I am a science teacher- ha!) and she really enjoys getting out and having new experiences. I love community talks, but for one reason or another (location- bars aren't exactly kid friendly, time, theme) I haven't gotten to attend many. Since the Alaska Wildlife Alliance welcomes kids and the talks are close to our house, we make a date of it! First to Wildlife Wednesday, then out to dinner. It has become our once-a-month tradition and Ellie says she prefers science dates over movies because she get to color and eat donuts, too!”
How did you hear about Wildlife Wednesdays, and why did you choose them for your science dates?
“I saw an event post on Facebook. I am always on the lookout for kid and teen friendly science/healthcare events, so I can share with my students. I love when I can get Ellie out interacting with people and learning to be respectful towards presenters. I'm not sure how much a 5-year-old can really understand, but after the presentation she does have a lot to say and asks questions. Plus, she gets to color and she absolutely loves art!”
What are your favorite things about Wildlife Wednesdays?
Ellie, with enthusiasm, says, "All of it! The whales, I liked when we saw the videos and seeing the whale snot. I like when I listen to the people, but I don't really watch it because I am coloring. But sometimes I do watch and I like when I see the videos. I always watch the videos. Sometimes they say hard words that I’ve never heard before and that is hard for me to understand, so I ask my mom. My favorite part about science dates is when I get donuts and when I learn stuff that I never learned before. And going to the restaurants with Mom and Hanna. I also like to write my name when we get there.”
Kaity adds, “I honestly found all the presenters amazing! When I have the opportunity to hear local scientists speak on their real-world work I soak it in and share with my students back at school. I've had a few students attend various presentations. We appreciate all that you do and so love that we now have an opportunity to get out, learn about local wildlife, and spend precious time together!”
The Alaska Wildlife Alliance was founded to protect wildlife through community. We’re honored to work with such a diverse alliance, big and small, old and young, colorers and non-colorers.
Wildlife Wednesdays are hosted for free every third Wednesday in Anchorage at the BP Energy Center from 7pm-8pm. Free donuts from our friends at Dipper Donuts are provided, as well as free coffee and tea from the BP Energy Center. For more information on our Wildlife Wednesday series in Anchorage, and our other series locations in Juneau and Soldotna, visit our website!