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Refuge’s WoW to debut for first time in Fort Myers

By REFUGE / DDWS - | Dec 9, 2020

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel recently welcomed its long-anticipated Wildlife on Wheels (WoW) urban mobile classroom and began team training.

Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland and “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge Development Officer Sierra Hoisington are leading the team as it prepares for its first in-the-field debut on Dec. 12 in an under-represented urban community. It will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. near the Big Lots store, at 4901 Palm Beach Blvd., Fort Myers. Staff, including bilingual Spanish interpreters, will conduct safe tours according to CDC guidelines throughout the day.

“We have been dreaming about the possibility of WoW for years, and it’s like an early Christmas present to finally get to explore it and share it with others in the community,” DDWS Executive Director Birgie Miller said. “It will help us spread the message about the beauty and calm of the refuge and nature to those who find it difficult to travel out to Sanibel Island to experience it themselves.”

The mobile classroom will be scheduled to visit schools, libraries, community centers, conservation-minded events, and under-represented communities in the five-county area to teach about water quality, the ecosystem, wildlife, and other topics that meet the refuge’s mission. In January, it will make its first school visit for one week at Tice Elementary.

Educator-driven curriculum will comply with STEM and Sunshine State standards for grades kindergarten through 12. Interactive learning stations interpret mangrove ecosystems, water quality, water conservation, pollution and plastic, animal scats and tracks, and Florida’s native animals.

WoW’s design, fabrication and staffing has been made possible by private philanthropic support.

The DDWS is still seeking funding for ongoing travel and development needs. For more information, contact Miller at 239-472-1100 ext. 232, 239-292-0566 or director@dingdarlingsociety.org.

For more information about the WoW and upcoming schedule, visit wowding.org.