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Debut of refuge’s urban mobile classroom wows community

By REFUGE / DDWS - | Dec 23, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED A family explores a gopher tortoise burrow.

On Dec. 12, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge debuted its long-awaited Wildlife on Wheels (WoW) urban mobile classroom at the Big Lots store on Palm Beach Boulevard in Fort Myers.

The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge reported that the turnout was favorable, with lots of positive reactions from visitors who toured the exhibits in a safe distanced manner.

In January, WoW will make its first school visit for one week at Tice Elementary, an under-represented school in Fort Myers. More public and school-site travels are in the planning stages for the classroom.

Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland and DDWS Development Officer Sierra Hoisington are leading the efforts, working with Urban Education Leader Melissa Maher, two bilingual Spanish interns, other educators, volunteers and drivers.

“This has been the most challenging and rewarding project I have ever worked on,” Hoisington said. “I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity to co-lead a project that will do so much good in our community. This was the first community event of many more and we are heading to Lee County schools in January.”

PHOTO PROVIDED A peek inside the completed WoW.

The DDWS and refuge thanked its hardworking team and all of the generous donors who made the moment happen. They specially thanked donors “Omi and Bubble,” who encouraged the team to think outside of the box and provided the initial lead gift to get the project off of the ground and running.

Anyone interested in making a tax-deductible donation to buy supplies and support ongoing staffing and other needs for the WoW project can call DDWS Executive Director Birgie Miller at 239-472-1100 ext. 232 or visit https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/WebLink.aspx?name=E54182&id=12.

To watch a 48-second tour of the WoW, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_pu-lO5uEQ&feature=youtu.be

For the latest news, monitor the WoW page at www.dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/wow.

PHOTO PROVIDED WoW CDL drivers Cliff Young and Ken King.