The Park School
Students at The Park School in Brookline, Mass., raised funds for wildlife after Hurricane Ike.
Second Grade Students
With help from teacher Brian Cassie, Massachusetts students filled their crayon-shaped bank with coins to help Attwater's prairie chickens.
After Hurricane Ike made landfall near Galveston on September 13, 2008, Texas' Attwater's prairie chickens got some help from a most unlikely source—the students at The Park School in Brookline, Mass.,more than 2,000 miles away.
At the urging of science teacher Brian Cassie, the first, second and third graders of The Park School decided to help wildlife affected by Ike. They launched on an old-fashioned coin drive and began filling up a giant crayon-shaped bankatop Mr. Cassie’s desk with nickels, dimes and quarters. Within a few days, enough coins had been collected to prompt Mr. Cassie to empty the top-heavy bank.
The final tally was $386, to be split between The Nature Conservancy and the Houston Audubon Society. The rationale behind the gift was explained by Hannah, a Park School second grader, who said, “If I was a bird I would like to have help in case of a hurricane.” Added her friend, Sophie, “We would want help if there was a hurricane here and all our animals were dying.”
According to Mark Dumesnil, upper gulf coast program manager for The Nature Conservancy of Texas, every little bit helps when you’re fighting to stave off extinction. “The odds are just so stacked against the Attwater’s prairie chicken,” said Dumesnil. “Loss of their habitat has decimated their population. The eggs of surviving birds are an easy food source for predators and scavengers like coyotes, skunks and raccoons, and juvenile and adult birds alike are preyed upon by falcons, hawks and owls."
In fact, said Dumesnil, the survival of the Attwater’s prairie chicken depends on work The Nature Conservancy and partners are doing to repopulate the species, not only at our Texas City Prairie Preserve but on private ranchland in the region. “Coastal prairie is one of the rarest habitat types in Texas,” said Dumesnil, “and the best remaining expanses can be found in the 650,000-acre Refugio-Goliad Prairie region, home to some of the oldest family cattle ranches in the state.” The Conservancy has been working with other organizations and private landowners since 1995 to maintain and restore the coastal prairie habitat in the region, thereby making it suitable for the release of captive-bred birds.
According to Jared Judy, preserve manager at The Nature Conservancy’s Texas City Prairie Preserve in Galveston Bay, those releases are delicate operations. “The birds are brought down from a number of breeding facilities around the state. But before they can be released onto the preserve, they need to spend time in acclimation pens, which help ease them from captivity to life in the wild and protect them from predators during their vulnerable transition period.”
One such pen was severely damaged by Hurricane Ike, which came ashore with winds reaching 130 m.p.h. Thanks to some big-hearted students outside Boston, that pen was quickly repaired and will continue to help captive-bred birds acclimate to their new lives in the wild.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.