Learning at the Center:

A care-based approach to science education

The Center values education as much as it values humane animal care and medical intervention.  Education is a future-oriented activity and provides the framework for caring for tomorrow’s and the coming decades’ wildlife.

Below are the basic precepts that the Center embraces in its educational pursuits.

Participants are engaged in activities that are real—that is they engage in needed activities to help and support the care of wildlife that has been harmed or has come into harm through the societal actions of humans.

The Center is not an exhibition, but a working hospital with varying corridors of learning and contact with wildlife and with the process of technical and veterinary care.  Participants first visit the Center and see through viewing glass the process of care and work.  As they learn about the Center, wildlife, and biology, they become integrated into the care of patients.

The Center does not involve volunteers and interns in the care of wildlife because it is short-staffed.  Rather, the Center involves volunteers and interns in the process of the care of wildlife because it is a significant form of environmental education and stewardship awareness.  Participant activities and their learning are needed in order for the organization to have a positive outcome in its care of wildlife The number of animals admitted to the hospital for care is dependent on the coverage by staff, volunteers, and interns.

Participants work in an environment that is populated by people of all ages and of all educational and cultural backgrounds–some are skilled some are not, some are trained some are not.  There is a distinct sharing of responsibilities of all ages and learning levels.  A child of 8 may do laundry with a veterinarian of 60–from backpack babies, to lap-topped undergraduates, to gray-haired grannies.

The Center promotes an atmosphere of curiosity, caring, and celebration.  As a result, there are unexpected outcomes and activities within a center type that is traditionally a veterinary hospital setting of wards, exam rooms and surgery suites.  Here, there is all of that layered with folk and blues jams, quiz show activities, spontaneous seminars in biology, art workshops, and nature trail activities–a clinical linoleum environment transformed into a rich panoply of wildlife, people, and expression.

This is the community–non-specialists in the science of veterinary care–rising to aid and to offer what they can to assist in the care of the wild animals that come from their neighborhoods.  This is a demonstration of true environmental stewardship. The long-term beneficiaries of these actions are wildlife, people, and habitats.

Participants apply for involvement, but admission is given to almost all comers. Only sheer volume and crackpots are turned away.

There is a distinct value placed on learning by doing, learning by modeling others who already know how to do.  There is a distinct value in this learning environment for ‘authorities’ to share what they are doing with those who have not done this sort of thing before. There is a value placed on sharing ideas and skill sets with others.

There is a belief that all people are gifted with varying degrees of learning skills and types of aptitudes, and styles of learning. The Center is open to all forms and types but has an aptitude for learning by doing.   It is the Center’s goal to emphasize learning by non-traditional means–that is by learning by doing, learning from nature not from books, learning by experience.

In fact, there is a significant value placed on first-hand learning–first-hand experience is more valuable than knowledge learned through books, tv, computers, even teachers.

There is a strong belief that wildlife veterinary medicine is one of the best environmental educations there is.  Even though it is an indoor activity, it embraces close-up many of the biological concepts that take place in nature.  It is a proactive attempt to assist and to understand the biology of what is happening in the out of doors.  It is biology from the microcosmic to the global, from bacteriology to tissue science, to organ biology and physiology, anatomy, population biology, habitat conservation to global ecosystem biology.

The Center also is engaged in education of all ages and of all education levels in informal setting.

There is a steady constant process of learning by all participants whether staff, interns, or volunteers.  All participants are learners. The best educators are learners.

There is a belief that learners in this setting should set their own direction and pace.  Nevertheless, learners should be open to suggestions and questions about what they are learning.

There is a strong belief that not everyone learns in the same way nor in the same channel.  All degrees of learning are to be involved.  All levels of learning are to be valued.

There is a strong emphasis on learning through questions.  Learners ask and other learners questions that are answered either authoritatively, tentatively and/or experimentally.

There is a strong sense of egalitarianism among learners and teachers in their quest to learn and investigate.

There is a strong sense of accuracy in learning but a stronger realization that accuracy is relative.  And what is accurate for an eight-year-old may be wholly inaccurate for a graduate student, yet the degree of accuracy is relative to the learner, not the teacher.

We value the fields of comparative anatomy and physiology, population biology, epidemiology, and public health.  We welcome the sports hunter and the animal rights activist with the same degree of suspicion.

There is a strong belief in Henry Beston’s words

“ We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.“

There is a belief in the educational model of:

“to see one, to do one, to teach one.”

There is a strong belief that educators are important in the role of a student’s learning.  The educator facilitates the student’s learning by sharing the joy of learning, by simplifying the approach (showing the student which path to follow) and by offering lots of encouragement, and gentle discouragement (constructive criticism) where needed.

The student feels like an equal to the educator. The educator is always seeking to make the student self-reliant.



Dr. Greg MertzEducation