Posted in animal mascots, biodiversity, Community Events, conservation, ecology, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, Farmers Markets, mascots, nature, Small Business, Uncategorized, Western New York Organizations, wildlife education

To Market We Go!

By Katie Gill

Hey, Wild Things. We are excited to say that we are less than one month away from returning to the Pittsford Village Community Farmers Market. ROC Animal School is partnering with our friends at Impact Earth to bring you a whole cast of characters throughout the summer, human and mascot alike. We’ll be exploring various topics with several local groups in the area, so each week will be a unique experience.

AS Plus IE FINAL

Moreover, we will be debuting a new mascot at the first market, Stripes the Skunk, for National Skunk Day. There’s going to be food, music, and family fun at the market. Several vendors are returning with their products and produce. If you want to see what events will be happening each week, visit https://www.pittsfordvillagefarmersmarket.org/events-calendar.

Rochester has a ton of great markets around the area worth exploring, and I suggest going to as many as possible to support our small businesses and see just how varied all the items available to purchase are. Some of my favorite buys have included maple cream (oh my god, it’s the best) and other maple products, honey, pastries, pickles, pasta, catnip and coffee. Of course, there is a ton of fresh, delicious produce to peruse as well.

Opening day of the Pittsford Village Farmers Market is Saturday, June 15, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Spiegel Community Center. The market runs until September 28, 2019.

Until next time, keep your wild side roarin’.

Posted in Adapatation, Animal Adaptations, Animal Ancestors, Animal Descendants, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, Carnivore, Community Events, conservation, coyote language, coyotes, domestic foxes, ecology, education, educational mascots, End of Year Review, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Farmers Markets, fox subspecies, foxes, foxes of north america, Fun Animal Facts, gray fox, Herbivore, kestrels, kit fox, Mammals, Marble Fox, mascots, Misunderstood Creatures, Multimedia, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, Nonprofit Groups, Omnivore, owls, Predator, Prey, Raptor Research, raptors, red fox, Reptiles, Rochester, NY Events, storytelling, talking mascots, teaching, vlogs, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education, Winter Festivals, wolf conservation, wolf reintroduction, wolves, Year-End Review

2018 Wrap Up

By Nick Hadad

Hello Wild Things!

It has been a busy year here at ROC Animal School! Here’s what we’ve been up to over the last several months.

Farmers Markets:

This year, we worked closely with our friends at Impact Earth and tabled at both the Pittsford and Lakeside Farmers Markets. Each month, we would showcase a different theme regarding local wildlife, typically using a different talking mascot character to front each one.

In June, we talked about Backyard Wildlife with our mascot, Swift the Red Fox as the expert on the subject. It generated a lot of discussion about wildlife found across New York state and some of the issues they face and ways to help them.

In July, it was Ask Howler Wolf month. I suited up as our friendly wolf and would answer any questions the public had about wildlife. If anyone managed to stump me, I would then research their inquiries and answer them through a video post on our Facebook page, as part of our ongoing “Ask Howler Wolf” series. Only two people stumped the wolf!

In August, it was Curious about Coyotes month with Dakota Coyote. It proved to be a perfect time to cover that topic as our local coyote population had grown quite large with numerous sightings popping up in urban areas. There were a lot of questions from passersby and we were very happy to help folks with their concerns.

September was Lend a Wing with Skye the Bald Eagle. The focus here was to cover what species of birds of prey could be found in our area, the issues they faced and the current science behind these birds. There was a lot of buzz around this subject as numerous sightings of black vultures, a bird more commonly found in the southern United States, were being documented across the county and further east.

We rounded out our season at the market by talking about Creatures of the Night, showcasing local nocturnal animals. We debuted our owl character, Oslo, and our marble fox mascot, Thor. Both were big hits!

Programs, Expos and Festivals:

We enjoyed getting out and about this year! We made appearances at both the Mendon Ponds and Irondequoit WinterFests, the East Rochester Public Library, the Eastside Resource Center at the Penfield YMCA, the 2018 Rochester March for Science and Expo, Working Like a Dog event at the Genesee Country Village & Museum, Bird of Prey Days at Braddock Bay, the Rochester Museum and Science Center, various day cares and day schools and many other places.

A PAWSitive Impact:

In October, we started to work more with our friends at Impact Earth. We created some educational programs focused on a zero waste initiative, the impact of pollution on wildlife and society and a stronger focus on school zero waste programs. We employed the use of some of our mascots as well, bringing a “wild animal” to talk first hand about the impact of trash on their daily lives. This has been quite exciting for students and we can’t wait to do more come 2019!

Wildlife and Science:

I have been trying to keep current on scientific studies on wildlife and ecosystems. This is so our program content will remain up to date but also to spread knowledge and awareness of what’s going on in the environment. There have been some new discoveries with wolves regarding genetics, new and rediscovered species and the wolf’s impact on the spread of diseases that harm ungulate species. It has been a very fascinating year!

2019:

The new year is right around the corner! We have a lot of things to look forward to and we will keep all you posted as things develop! Of course, you can always book us for programs and events by contacting us at nickhadad12@gmail.com

Until next time, stay wild!

Posted in Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, arctic foxes, Arts, biodiversity, coyote language, coyotes, ecology, education, educational mascots, Farmers Markets, Mammals, mascots, nature, nature conservation, Nonprofit Groups, Omnivore, Uncategorized

The Coyote Upgrade

Dakota Coyote 1

By Nick Hadad, @Hound_of_Music

Back in 2008, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I designed a coyote character to be a storyteller and educator of sorts. The body suit was a refurbished wolf I bought on eBay and a friend of mine built the head.  I named the coyote Kyp, and was really proud of what I was able to put together.

As events increased in frequency, I realized the costume just wasn’t working in the way I had hoped. The mask was very much a traditional mascot-styled head. That is to say, it was made of thick foam and it was very hard for people to hear my voice through it. And, more importantly, it was hard to breathe in.

For those reasons, I shelved the character and focused my attention on other projects. Eventually, once I had come across the mouth-mover masks from Elope Inc., I realized I had finally found a solution to the issue of not being heard at programs. Once we had our red fox, gray wolf and arctic fox, we put out a request to get a second wolf mask donated so I could, in theory, switch the colors around a bit and fashion it into a coyote.

After several months, we had the extra mask. I thought I could apply the colorations with an airbrush, but sadly, it was far too costly to purchase one and I was not able to find anyone locally who had one. So, the head sat on the costume rack for another year.

I was at a standstill on the coyote project until a friend of mine, Erin, who is a professional mascot costume designer, suggested I try just using various permanent markers to apply the colors. Honestly, I was afraid to try, as I feared the ink would smear after use. So, for another few months, it sat there.

Finally, a few weeks ago, I was shopping for supplies at an art store in town when I spotted some high quality markers that would work on fabric in the colors I needed. I decided to take a risk and buy them. I quickly returned home and experimented on scraps of faux fur. I worked until I had the results I wanted before trying it out on the mask.

After two days of work, the wolf had transformed into a coyote. It was realistic enough for my liking and once we tweaked the eye color a bit, friendly as well.

We decided to change the name of the character since the new look was a far departure from the old one. Katie and I narrowed it down to four names with the help of our friends and posted an online poll for our fans to vote on.

As luck would have it, we were able to debut the coyote character at the Pittsford Community Farmers Market. We brought a tally sheet with us and invited folks to vote in person as they shopped. At the end of the day, we counted the votes from both polls and announced the winning name the next morning.

Dakota won in a landslide!

Now I’m working hard behind the scenes to rewrite the coyote program. There’s some new information out there on coyotes, yet I’m finding there is a lot of information that seems to be missing. The song dog is quite fascinating, yet mysterious! Once I get all of the pieces together, I can promise an entertaining and engaging program.

In the meantime, Dakota Coyote has been appearing at area farmers markets as we at Animal School celebrate our first anniversary. So keep your eyes and ears open for the newest howler in town!

Until next time, stay wild!

 

Posted in animal mascots, animals, Arts, education, educational mascots, End of Year Review, Entertainment, environment, Farmers Markets, mascots, nature, Nonprofit Groups, Small Business, talking mascots, teaching, vlogs, Western New York Organizations, wildlife, wildlife education

Animal School: Our Year In Review

By Katie Gill

Happy New Year, everyone!

With 2017 officially here, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on what Animal School has accomplished since its inception this summer and what we have to look forward to.

keleFirst off, on Sunday, January 15,we will be at the Mendon Ponds Winterfest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Inola the arctic fox will be there representing us as well as Braddock Bay Raptor Research. If you recall, we did a video series called “Bird Eye’s View” this summer with BBRR, which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfVO60UBicM&t=2s&list=PLI0kQykroXfLe8_JT_YK8VEwcllHwZY-_&index=15. Mendon Ponds Winterfest is a family-friendly event open to the public, so we hope to see you there!

Now, regarding our past year: Animal School, in its current form, took place after Nick asked me to design a brochure to help him promote his educational wildlife mascot program. I ended up coming with him to the 2016 Brighton Eco Fest, since we had done a fair amount of sales and marketing work together already and, having been in a relationship for the better part of a decade, already had a shorthand with one another.

inolaAt Eco Fest, we caught the eye of Robert, from Impact Earth, Inc., who invited us to tour with his group at the Pittsford, Churchville, Lakeside (Charlotte) and Macedon Farmers Markets. We even crashed the Brighton Farmers Market a few times. During this period, we received useful insight from the public about roc-pridebuilding our program to include more interactive elements and appealing to people of all ages. Hence, we began our fun animal facts and grew our social media presence to include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, this blog and YouTube.

In the summer we were invited to the Rochester Pride Fest with the Wildlife Educators Coalition. Nick and I both got to be part of the gen-sum-festparade, which was the biggest, most fun parade either of us has ever experienced. Everyone was so nice and supportive of one another, I genuinely can’t think of a better festival I’ve been to in Rochester.We also went with WEC to the Geneseo Summer Festival and did an event with Cool Kids! in Brockport, NY, our old college town.

We transitioned into the fall with the Walworth walworthHarvest Moon Festival, where we had a coloring station set up for kids so they could draw while learning about the various types of foxes that exist in North America. And yes, I did draw and color those foxes on the display board. I hope to do a display of kestrels at some point in the future.

foxesThose are all the big and successful events I can think of. We tried to do a Turtles Around Town feature, which was like an interactive Where’s Waldo? and conveniently coincided with the release of Pokémon Go! Unfortunately, it did not receive enough engagement to warrant its continuation, especially considering the amount of work it took to find new locations each week and the cost of driving around to scout out locations.

Moreover, we did a series of videos entitled Vulpinology, in which our fox characters, Swift and Inola, talked about different species of foxes, as well as the latest news surrounding them. Again, costs and time spent for these videos deterred us from producing more, especially since the audio quality was not up to our standards — a result of our lack of equipment — and it was too difficult for me to film for hours with my back injury. We were going to start a Fairy Tale Fallacies feature as well, the first video of which I accidentally deleted, in which we discussed popular fairy tales and the misinformation, misconceptions and myths they spread about wildlife. However, that has also been put on the back burner. Most recently, Nick started an Ask Howler vlog, where people can ask our resident talking wolf questions about wolves and wildlife. So far, it has had a decent reception.rudolph

At the end of November, Nick received a Rudolph costume from an old friend, and we got to take the red-nosed reindeer to the East Rochester Christmas Festival, Uno Chicago Grill in Victor, Lift Bridge Book Shop in Brockport and, perhaps most importantly, the CURE Childhood Cancer Association‘s Holiday Party, where he was a surprise hit.

Furthermore, our Fun Animal Facts are now organized by a weekly theme. I would like to do a series of drawing videos based off of the parody story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears I wrote back in 6th grade, and perhaps one of the nonfiction deer story I co-wrote in 1st grade. Likewise, we are planning to get a new coyote mascot, since the one Nick has is cheap and doesn’t work or fit well. We are also crafting a vulture, horse and probably something else that escapes me.

Nick has also been interviewed by Elope, Inc., the designers of several of our mascots’ heads, and The Mascot Diaries, so those are two things we are eager to share with our audience!

Additionally, we still desire a Patreon account to get paid for our work, but need to find a way to reward the patrons for their ongoing support other than just thanking them in videos and blog posts and continuing our Fun Animal Facts. I have ideas, but they still need to be refined. For example, we want to have patrons come up with ideas for videos and Fun Animal Facts themes, but there are some unsavory characters on the Internet who we want to keep from poisoning our family-friendly program, so I need to keep our guidelines for suggestions strict and precise.

We are continually toying with Animal School’s voice, too. We want what we write and say to appeal to people of all ages, though each project we work on feels inherently geared towards a certain age group. Then again, kids are so smart with their insights and breadth of knowledge, they often make us feel like the children! So we are constantly tinkering with our writings and videos so they are accessible to everyone.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has supported us on this journey. Your help and encouragement has been instrumental to our success.

Until next time: stay wild, friends.

Posted in animal facts, animals, Arts, biodiversity, ecology, education, Entertainment, Farmers Markets, nature, nature conservation, Small Business, wildlife, wildlife education

Fun Animal Facts: Weekly Recap

We’ve had a busy week! Video shoots, Turtles Around Town, the 2016 Rochester Pride Parade and, of course, a series of fun animal facts. Also, our fox puppet, Jingo, sang a “Tom’s Diner” parody because she is a saucy little fox.

If you are hoping to see us out and about, Howler Wolf will be with the Wildlife Educators Coalition at Cool Kids! in Brockport this Friday from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. We will also be at both the Pittsford Village Community Farmers Market and the Brighton Farmers Market this Saturday and Sunday with one of our talking animal characters. So come on by, support our local businesses, get some amazing food (seriously, I cannot praise the quality and variety of food and drinks vendors have at these markets enough) and enjoy the sun!

Without further ado, here is our assemblage of animal facts from the past week:

  • Domesticated goats can quickly revert back to their feral state out in the wild. The same goes for domesticated cats!
  • Common Garters are New York State’s mostGarter Snake common snake species. Between 16 and 30 inches long, they eat insects, slugs, worms, and even the occasional frog or mouse! (Photo from Wikipedia)
  • Fun Animal Fact: All the Kongs in “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” are designed after real monkeys.
    DKC TF
    Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

    Donkey Kong = Mountain Gorilla
    Diddy = Spider Monkey
    Cranky & Funky = Gorilla
    Dixie = Chimpanzee
    Poison Dart Frog

  • Poison Dart Frogs’ bodies have elaborate designs & brilliant colors to ward off potential predators, a natural defense tactic called aposematic coloration. (Photo from National Geographic Kids)tegu
  • Tegus are a group of large omnivorous lizards native to Central and South America. The amount of meat tegus consume decreases as they mature. Pictured below is an Argentine Black and White Tegu, the largest of all tegus. (Photo Credit: Branson’s Wild World)Peafowl
  • Peacocks are actually male peafowl. Females are referred to as peahens, babies are peachicks, and a group of peafowl are an Ostentation or Muster. (Photo Credit: Coqui de Vicente on Pinterest)Koala
  • Koalas are anatomically designed to hang out in tree branches for extended periods. They have thick rump fur, a cartilaginous pad at their spine’s base, a curved backbone, and two fewer pairs of ribs than most mammals (11 instead of 13), which creates a curled skeletal structure that allows koalas to lounge in tree forks. (Photo and information from: http://www.animalfactguide.com/animal-facts/koala/)
  • Monarch Butterflies are the only butterflies Monarchsthat make two-way, multi-generational migrations. In the fall, our North Eastern Monarchs travel 1,000s of miles from here to Mexico! (Photo from Amusing Planet)

Those are all of our facts for this week. Remember, Animal School is also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, so check in with us regularly to keep up with our entertaining animals, arts and insights into wildlife. We’re all over the place!

 

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, children's books, ecology, educational mascots, environment, Farmers Markets, kestrels, nature, nature conservation, talking mascots, Uncategorized, wildlife, wildlife education

Birds of a Feather – Our Avian Characters

talon 1

kele 1

Our canine characters, Swift, Howler and Inola have been getting a lot of the attention lately. We didn’t realize just how well received they’d be.

In addition to these lovable foxes and wolves, we currently have two bird characters, both of which have been involved in programs years before we had formally put together our Animal School programs. They are Kele Kestrel and Talon the Hawk.

Kele was built by two friends (Dan made the bodysuit, Erin from Keystone made the head) and debuted in early 2010.  Kele was to serve as a talking character for stories and interactive educational events.  This project was done in conjunction with Braddock Bay Raptor Research, a group I was and still lending my wing to when I can.  Kele’s first event was telling folktales I had written to school groups who came to the Braddock lodge on a chilly winter morning.  He made a bigger splash during that spring’s Bird of Prey Days festival, teaming up with some of the area sports mascots to perform an elaborate storytelling session in front of a large audience.

Kele has since appeared at many elementary schools, various bird events at Braddock Bay, the Palmyra Bird Fest, the NY Power Authority Wildlife Festival, the Seneca Park Zoo, and has since become a staple in our Animal School programs. Being the most colorful bird in the group, he’s easy to spot at events.

Our second bird friend is Talon the Hawk. Talon was built by Erin from Keystone Mascots and is fashioned to be a bit more realistic and natural, sporting accurate red tail hawk/coopers hawk type plumage.  He debuted as well at Braddock Bay but has attended birthday parties and given presentations to our local Audubon Society.

Kele and Talon at the moment can be interchangeable for Animal School programs, depending on the needs of the program or client. Although, it would make sense to have Kele lead our “Kestrel Simulator” program!

We do have plans to create/develop other bird characters which will include a raven, cockatoo, turkey, an owl, a bald eagle and a robin. We are looking into crowdfunding pages to make this a reality as costume construction sadly is not cheap!

So give us a chirp in the meantime if you’re interested in a visit from one of our feathered friends!

Until next yime, stay tuned and stay wild!

Posted in animal mascots, animals, biodiversity, children's books, ecology, educational mascots, environment, Farmers Markets, nature, nature conservation, talking mascots, Uncategorized, wildlife, wildlife education

The Importance of Farmers Markets

Swift at MFM 16

You may not think the subject of Farmers Markets has much to do with wildlife but you’d be surprised. First, let me tell you a bit about famers markets in general.

The idea behind a farmers market is simply to give local farmers a chance to sell their produce and/or meats directly to the public. This is great because often, this produce is organic, which means it was grown or raised without the use of chemicals, hormones or other not-so-natural elements.  While the nutrition content of organic and conventionally grown produce is about the same, a lot of people prefer organic foods because the chemicals in pesticides, herbicides and other sprays can be harmful over time and may not come off completely after being washed.

Farmers markets offer a lot of local foods, which reduces the need to have the same items shipped to stores over great distances. This reduces the use of fuel, which is good for the environment.  To put it simply, it is easier to buy tomatoes from a local farmer than it is to buy tomatoes that are grown from out of state.

Also, the selection of goods and foods at farmers markets is often greater than that of most supermarkets, especially during peak periods of the growing season. You can find a greater variety of meats, honey, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and even mushrooms at these farmers markets.  It is often amazing to see what’s on hand.  You can try things you’ve never had the chance to try before!

So where does this tie into our wildlife?

Well, the local bees benefit from local farmers! This means more flowers pollinated that will lead to more fruit and veggies.  Not to mention, this could help strengthen the area bee populations as a whole, which have been struggling.  Some farmers have man-made bee hives near their fields.

Recently, we at the Wildlife Educators Coalition have been touring the area Farmers Markets in Brighton, Pittsford, Charlotte, Churchville and Macedon. When I’d bring out our character, Swift the Fox, I would often teach folks not only how foxes hunt, but about some of the things foxes like to eat. Foxes are omnivores, which means they eat both animals and plants.  A farmers market has a lot of the things a fox would like to eat.  For example, many farmers and vendors have had strawberries for sale over the last few weeks, along with early season honey, fresh eggs and even ducks.  Now that is some prime fox food!  It was my hope that by having Swift teach this to families who were passing through the market, it would encourage them to perhaps purchase something from the farmers as well.  We certainly ended up picking up a few items.

So check out your local farmers market! There is always something new there and produce changes with the passing of the seasons.  And who knows, maybe you’ll see us there, too!

Until next time, stay tuned and stay wild!