Afterschool students learn about nature with Champions for Wildlife 

Published 10:38 am Wednesday, October 18, 2023

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In the latest Champions for Wildlife monthly conversation in Polk County afterschool programs for grades K-8, the question was asked, “What animals do you see in your backyard?” Students eagerly share their answers… squirrels, snakes, beetles, butterflies, bees, deer, birds, foxes, ants and fish. 

Education Coordinator Alexis Hinchliffe asks, “What about worms, spiders, skunks, raccoons, opossums, turkeys or bears?” Hands excitedly go up and down. The question of why we see some animals and not others led to a discussion about various habitats and the four basic needs for wildlife to survive and thrive: space, shelter, food and water. 

Alexis explained that different types of neighborhoods and environments will attract different kinds of animals because each animal species has its own specific needs. Animals that live in western North Carolina may not be adapted to live in a different region, such as on the coast. Wildlife diversity is based on a variety of ecological conditions.

A Polk Central Elementary School student works on an art project with Champions for Wildlife teacher Alexis Hinchliffe.

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As everything in nature is connected in a symbiotic relationship, animals coexist with plants and other animals within an ecosystem. Plants and trees provide shelter and attract insects and other animals via flowers, pollen, leaves and seeds. Those animals in turn support the existence of other animals. 

In ‘Name that Animal Game’, students were able to identify animals as Alexis shared fun facts about each. She encouraged students to think about what we all can do to support wildlife in our own backyards.

Every session includes a Wild for Art project related to the current topic. Students each selected a backyard wildlife animal to shape out of wire or pipe cleaners and beads, and mount on wooden blocks they decorated. Coloring sheets, puzzles, or word games are provided for students to help them learn more about wildlife species.  

Volunteers are essential to support this ongoing afterschool series as well as additional Champions for Wildlife in-school sessions. In this first of four topics during the fall afterschool program, David Riddle and Jessica Glasscock volunteered to help, inspiring kids to love wildlife through art and education. The organization is also grateful to the Polk County Community Foundation for a Forbes Foundation grant via Polk County Schools. 

A Polk Central student’s turtle artwork from a Wild for Art project.

For information about how you can help support Champions for Wildlife please visit


Submitted by Karen Dacey