There are, now, more than one million educators out spreading wild words to their students, words like fox and moose and spadefoot frogs.
Project WILD recently announced it had graduated its one-millionth student. Or, in this case, teacher.
More than 12,000 of those students/teachers came through the Utah program, said Diana Vos, Project WILD coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Project WILD is directed at teachers of kindergarten through high school. It is also a benefit to people from resource agencies, Scouting leaders and public and private conservation groups, "and, really, anyone working with young people or people who want to learn more about wildlife."
The Project WILD program started in the United States in 1980. Utah was one of the first to join back in 1983. It is the longest functioning wildlife education program in the United States and is now in countries like Sweden, India, Canada and Japan.
The program is centered around a 10-hour workshop, which, said Vos, takes teachers "from awareness to action." Those who complete the course then take the field to students.
The objective is to create awareness, knowledge, skill and commitment that will result in informed decisions, responsible behavior and constructive action ... "for wildlife and the environment upon which all life depends," she noted. "Instead of going directly to the classrooms, we train the teachers.
"A lot of what we teach is basic concepts, such as what are foods animals eat and what is habitat and how laws are made. Then we move onto all sorts of different issues, such as what kids can do to make a difference.
"Project WILD makes learning relevant to students, incorporates problem-based learning, uses multiple contexts to teach concepts and engages students with real world examples. Since 1983, more than 40 studies have been conducted on Project WILD activities, materials and its professional development offerings. Findings from these studies have been very positive."
This instruction is then passed on to students. Studies show that each teacher or facilitator that passes through the class will instruct an average of 80 students a year about wildlife.
The program itself is very "hands on ... offering activities that enhance student learning in all subject and skill areas. A lot of teachers in the program tell me that they wished they'd taken it much earlier," she noted.
Lisa Prudden, a teacher at Brighton High, said she took the class 11 years ago, "and it's proven very valuable to me. I apply it in my biology class. It helps to show the connection between what we say and real-work application. My students see what wildlife managers do."
Marlene Foard, a teacher at Glendale Middle School, said the program provided her with exciting and interesting opportunities to teach core curriculum objectives in all academic areas.
"There a wide variety of activities that range from art to poetry, reading and writing to more hands-on projects like dissecting owl pellets. It seems that no matter what the lessons, the students really do enjoy the subject," she noted.Activities are intended to teach one or more of the following concepts:
Awareness and appreciation of wildlife.
Human values and the wildlife resource.
Habitat and ecological systems.
Cultural and social interaction with wildlife.
Environmental issues and trends, alternatives and consequences. Ecological systems and responsible human actions.