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Wildlife Olympics

Originally appears in the Summer 2013 issue

CAN YOUR STUDENTS do the sideways crabwalk to escape a predator, jump over obstacles like a deer, waddle to the water like a duck, slither through the  woods like a snake, or hang out with a bat? Although humans lack the physical characteristics to effortlessly accomplish some of these feats, trying to imitate the movements and habits of native wildlife in your part of the world will make young people realize the special adaptations and uniqueness to be found in local ecosystems. The Wildlife Olympics are a series of activities that can be used in your elementary class as a cross-curricular activity incorporating elements of science and physical education, or as a school-wide event to raise awareness about local wildlife.

Wildlife Olympics “events” mimic the movements of native animals as they engage in everyday activities such as searching for food; escaping from predators; communicating with each other; resting during the day; locating secure places to sleep; and prowling, hopping, spinning, swimming, or flying their way through life.

In addition to providing an opportunity for inquiry learning and a greater understanding of the natural world, the Wildlife Olympics lesson is a great way to get your elementary students outdoors and participating in active play and learning.

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Lois Nixon is a retired Environmental Educator, and was Chair of the 2011 NAAEE Conference in Raleigh, NC, where this lesson was presented by Cindy Heffley. Cindy is an educator with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the Alligator River/Pea Island National Wildlife Refuges in Manteo, North Carolina. This lesson was adapted from the Animal Olympics course created along the nature trail at St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge, near Natchez, Mississippi. The images in the following cards were created by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.