Champions for Wildlife, Conserving Carolina discuss animal adaptations with PCMS students

Published 11:42 am Thursday, September 28, 2023

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When two organizations like Champions for Wildlife and Conserving Carolina join forces for an educational project, they are sure to spread appreciation for the natural world!

Champions for Wildlife’s goal is to inspire kids to love wildlife through art and education. The organization’s staff and volunteers routinely visit area classrooms and afterschool programs to present topics focused on wildlife, especially endangered and misunderstood animals. Through this “Wild for Art” program, students then create an art project based on each current lesson.

Recently, Champions for Wildlife welcomed Pam Torlina from Conserving Carolina as a guest speaker for an afterschool session at Polk County Middle School. She talked about birds that inhabit our region, from the large owls and hawks, and water birds such as herons, to the smaller songbirds and tiny hummingbirds. 

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Certified as a wildlife educator, Pam was able to bring bird samples, including feathers and wings and even bird beaks and feet, that the students were able to examine. The educational materials provided close-up glimpses into a variety of physical characteristics of birds, really fascinating to the students! Pam described how the varied traits served these feathered creatures and allowed them to survive and thrive in their native habitats. 

Following the presentation, Alexis Hinchliffe, teacher for Champions for Wildlife, led a bird beak experiment to demonstrate the diverse ways that birds manage to eat. They may scour for tiny seeds, crack nuts open, dig for worms, dive for fish, scavenge remains, peck for bugs, or sip nectar. Students selected a “beak” – ladle, scissors, tweezers, pliers, straw, or string, then used these tools to collect “food” samples, such as seeds, corn, nuts, and water. This exercise challenged the students to determine what type of beak allowed access to different foods. They realized that bird beaks are adapted to suit their diets, or vice versa!

The session concluded with an animal adaptation art project organized by Karen Dacey. Students outlined an imaginary habitat and then, using clay or paper collages, designed creatures that could survive within that environment. 

“We had a great time partnering with Champions for Wildlife to teach Polk County Middle School students about animal adaptations,” Torlina said. “Our partnership with Champions for Wildlife is a natural fit, as our missions are closely aligned. Both organizations strive to inspire appreciation of the natural world. Watching the kids take what they learned and apply it to art was inspirational, they had such great ideas and creativity!”

For more information about Champions for Wildlife, please visit You can learn more about Conserving Carolina at