Posted in Animal Ancestors, Animal Descendants, animal facts, Animal Kingdom, arctic wildlife, Arts, biodiversity, birds, birds of prey, Carnivore, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Herbivore, Mammals, Marsupials, mascots, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, vlogs, vultures, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education, wolf conservation, wolf reintroduction, wolves

Ask Howler Episode 2

Episode 2 of Ask Howler is here! In this episode, we discuss marsupials, wolf fur variations and the differences between ravens and crows!

As always, you can submit your wildlife questions by commenting here or on our YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages. Howler is always eager to lend a paw!

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, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, Carnivore, coyote language, coyotes, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Mammals, Misinformation, Misunderstood Creatures, Multimedia, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, vlogs, wildlife, wildlife education, wolf conservation, wolf reintroduction, wolves

The Animal School VLOG!

Hey folks! Nick, here! The man behind the mascots!

We’ve started a series of vlogs for Animal School featuring our talking characters. Posts will cover a variety of topics and will be posted on all of our Facebook pages and other social media platforms.  For starters, we had Howler Wolf take on the role of host, launching a segment for the vlog called “Wolf News,” which showcases current topics on wolves, wolf conservation, reintroduction and any new breakthroughs in the science behind these amazing creatures.

Granted, the videos aren’t of the highest production quality. We don’t have a lot of equipment in any respect, whether it’s sound or lighting, not to mention the cameras themselves.  For these initial vlog posts, we’re using the webcam on my ten year old laptop!  Not great, but it will do for now!

We have already filmed multiple videos which will be uploaded throughout the upcoming weeks. We’ll also start a segment called “Ask Howler.” In which, the audience can pitch questions to our wolf via Facebook/Twitter on any topic involving wildlife.  Eventually, we will have our other characters host videos for the vlog, so that will be something to watch out for.

Here’s Wolf News Ep. 1 – The Wolf Genus Study

And, Wolf News Ep. 2 – The Isle Royale Wolf Reintroduction

 

Posted in animal facts, Animal Kingdom, animal mascots, animals, Arts, bird mascots, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, foxes tapping the earth's magnetic field, Multimedia, nature conservation, storrytelling, talking mascots, teaching, Uncategorized, Wild Animals, wildlife

My Life as an Animal – Reflections of a Mascot

swift-teaching

Hey, folks! It’s Nick from Animal School. I’m the guy who typically brings our talking characters to life.  I know I’ve said this before in earlier posts but I’m constantly amazed by things I learn or experience in this line of costume work.  While my work as a sports mascot over the last fifteen years certainly has its amusing stories, I’m actually finding that being a talking educational animal ambassador is a lot more interesting.

I realized early on that if I am suited up as a certain species, I need to be well versed in all aspects of that animal’s life. I’m often approached by folks who have a variety in depth questions about current topics on that species, or questions about its behavior, diet and even how certain illness can affect it.  Sometimes, someone comes up with a question and I find that I don’t have an answer.  Experts get stumped more often than one would think!  Thus, I head home after the event and I spend some time researching until I can deliver an accurate answer.

For example, I was performing as Swift the Fox at one of the farmers markets and a couple had a question on alternative treatments for foxes dealing with mange. At the time, I only knew of one type of medicine that could be administered but they had heard that at times, under certain circumstances, it may not be enough to help a sick fox and they were eager to know about new treatments,.  I just had to look into this and I’m pleased to say that after some digging, I did find out there is in fact, a different treatment… and perhaps this will be on a future blog post.

Something else I discovered came to me while I was performing as Howler Wolf at a village fair event. I realized people will freely share their opinions about certain species with me.  Specifically on that afternoon as Howler, I was giving howling demonstrations and I was approached by a local wildlife rehabilitator.  I love the work rehabilitators do and I had spent a few years growing up working for some.  Much to my surprise, he informed me that he hated wolves.

I was a bit surprised but I didn’t get offended and I didn’t bite his head off for how he felt. It did, however, make me think that the public’s perception of wolves wasn’t limited into two categories (i.e., those who like wolves and those who don’t). And, after doing some research, I found there were multiple view points and perceptions, like those who love wolves, those who know what life as a wolf is like, what living with wolves is like, those who see the wolf as a spiritual symbol, those who believe wolves are hurting game animal populations, those who see wolves as a threat to livestock, or in the extreme cases I’ve read about, those who see wolves as a symbol of government overreach…  It was fascinating to learn all of this.

I’m sure as I continue to perform as these characters, I am certain I’ll never find a dull moment. I’ll continue to learn, discover and get some insight on how people think and feel about certain animals.  This is the start of some sort of wild adventure, to say the least!

Stay wild, everyone!

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, ecology, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, foxes, Multimedia, nature, Nonprofit Groups, red fox, Small Business, storrytelling, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vulpines, Western New York Organizations, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Animal School Fall Roundup

Housekeeping!

Hey, everyone, and welcome back to the Animal School blog. We have been busy behind the scenes, getting ready to transfer apartments, so Animal School has taken the back burner for a few weeks. Fortunately, we’re almost moved, so our creature features are back in action, and my pun game is back on point.

First off, we had a marvelous time at the 7th Annual Harvest Moon Festival in Walworth yesterday. Swift the Fox was out, teaching skulks of kits — or groups of kids — about gekkering and other lupine and canine noises. We also crafted a display of fox faces that shows people the different species of foxes around North America, as well as an info sheet that highlights details about those species. We had so many enthusiastic art students at our coloring station! It was truly a great time, and we look forward to returning next year.

In case you missed the event and would like share our handouts with your kids or students, we have:

Fox Face_Coloring Handout

Fox Facts

Swift Gekkering

And don’t forget our Vulpinology series on YouTube! Down the line, we do want to get better recording equipment and mics, but we are working with what we have for now.

Other good news: Fun Animal Facts return today! This week’s theme will be Girls Versus Boys, in which we explore the similarities and differences among species in the Animal Kingdom. Next week will be Close, But No Babar (a pun of “close, but no cigar,” with an homage to the cartoon elephant). In there, we will look at animals that have several overlapping features but are not the same. Think cheetahs and leopards, buffaloes and bison, snakes and legless lizards, etc.

Now, on the flip side, we’re going to have to take a hiatus from Turtles Around Town. Scouting out areas and driving around for a new picture every week has taken too much time and money. We considered Photoshopping the turtles into pictures, but we wanted to keep the shots authentic. We may continue with the feature sporadically, but, for now, the upkeep is too great for us to handle.

However, that doesn’t mean we’re calling our operation quits! Quite the opposite. We have a vulture character, Stinky, in the works, and Nick recently acquired a buffalo mask, so our family of furballs is growing! A horse costume and skunk costume are also on deck. Stay connected with us to see the work we’re doing. We’re on WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

In the meantime, remember that both the Wildlife Educators Coalition and our Animal School program are available for events and programs around Western New York throughout the year. School visits, library programs, community center activities, bookstore readings, scout meetings, birthday parties, senior center enrichment activities — you name it, and we can craft a customized program for your group! WEC has the live animals for demonstrations, and Animal School has the talking animal characters (mascots and puppets). You can also have both the live animals and mascots show up to your event. We offer a sliding price scale, so no one gets denied our unique, hands-on educational experience because of his or his income or location. We are always eager to work with other groups, so join in on our animal antics, already!

For more information about booking us, contact Nick Hadad at nhadad12@yahoo.com for Animal School and Karin Fires at karinfires@gmail.com for the Wildlife Educators Coalition (our parent group with the live animals).

We’ll see you all soon!

 

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, Arts, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, ecology, education, educational mascots, Entertainment, environment, talking mascots, Uncategorized, vultures

Stinky the Vulture

stinky-vulture-4

Through a generous donation, we now have a vulture character to add to our cast of talking critters. Vultures are interesting animals in that they are scavengers, eating dead animals.  Biologists widely consider the vulture a member of “nature’s sanitation crew” along with many other “garbage eaters” like raccoons, skunks, opossums, termites, maggots and a wide variety of other creatures.

So why is a garbage eater a good thing? Well, in the case of the vulture, they essentially help get rid of the carcasses of dead animals.  Without them, it would take a terribly long time for a dead animal to rot away.  They would pile up and thusly spread diseases and fill the air with terrible odors.  Vultures speed up the process, eating the tissues and reducing the carcass to bones.

It was fitting, I felt, that we name our vulture character Stinky. As per his backstory, he will help run the Nature’s Sanitation Crew and spread the message about the good these birds and other animals in the ‘crew’ do for the environment.

Of course, the costume (just the mask and the feet in this case) were designed to be scary, something more for Halloween than nature programs. It was created by Zagone Studios, a very spooky and wild Halloween accessory company specializing in adult sized costumes and masks.  Their vulture, along with a wide variety of monsters, werewolves/big bad wolves, spooky styled birds and even a crazed chicken, is sure to send a chill up the spine of passersby on Halloween night.  So how does one take a scary costume and turn it friendly?

Well, it’s not going to be easy. Vultures, to start with, aren’t pretty birds.  This is especially true of turkey vultures with their big red featherless heads.  And while Zagone didn’t make the mask monstrous, the realism and large eyes are a real sight.  I worked on refurbishing an old black-furred body suit that was donated to us a year ago and made a set of black and gray tail feathers and winged gloves.  Once I had all of that completed, I had to figure out his outfit and get a preliminary photo/video. I thought at first he would look good in an old leather jacket with a red t-shit with a hawk’s face on it underneath but it made him look too much like a punk.

We picked up a plain white shirt and a tan outdoorsy vest today which we’ll try on soon. We’re hoping he’ll look a bit more approachable this way.  Of course, that still leaves his mask.  We might give him a hat or bandana to wear and repaint parts of the eyes—carefully of course so I can still see out of it while in the mask.  And, we might change the voice.  I initially pictured Stinky having a rough, gravelly voice with a hint of a Brooklyn accent but that might still come off as scary from this sort of character.  I might have to really think this over.

Any suggestions?

Stinky the Vulture will debut sometime in late October.

Stay wild!

Posted in animal facts, animal mascots, animals, Aquatic Life, Arts, biodiversity, birds, Carnivore, children's books, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Herbivore, Mammals, Marsupials, Multimedia, Multimedia, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, Reptiles, storrytelling, talking mascots, Uncategorized, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education, wolves

The Wildlife Educators Coalition at Rochester’s Fringe Fest 2016

Several months ago, we were asked to be a part of this year’s Fringe Fest. I was quite excited at the prospect of being a part of one of Rochester’s biggest art and performance festivals. We were going to hold two shows, both taking place at the MuCCC on Atlantic Ave. The first was our Animal Expo, an interactive forum, of sorts, in which our animal wranglers explain everything about the various species they were displaying.  I originally was to cover the intermission with a howling demo as our wolf, Howler while set up started for the animal improve comedy, “Cletus’s Critter Corner.”

Plans shifted slightly by the time I arrived this morning. They scrapped the intermission and put me into the Expo, right between the segment on the various birds and before Bu, the serval cat. It was also decided that the Expo would be done in sort of an interview format, with Matt, our emcee, bringing us out on stage and asking us questions and engaging the audience.

With that in mind, I wandered into the front of the house and into the lobby, mingling with guests as they waited for gates to open. Howler was a hit; the prospect of a talking wolf posing with people for photos was too good to pass up.  I did a quick stop out front of the building to wave in folks who were making their way over.  And, just before 11am, I darted back to the green room and warmed up my vocal chords as the reptiles took the stage.

The crowd was thrilled, especially when the talkative exotic birds showed off their stuff during their segment. Once they were finished squawking, Matt announced, “Right, so our next animal is one that used to roam most of the United Sates but not so much now, and he’s one of the biggest carnivores around.  So let’s bring out the wolf!”  And out I dashed, sliding a bit on the smooth stage surface.  The crowd was alive with gasps of surprise, cheers and shrieks of excitement from the kids.

Matt and I hit it off well. He rattled off questions and I gave in depth yet digestible answers, trying to keep myself peppy and making use of the stage.  It felt good to use my improv skills again, something I haven’t done on stage since college.  This was especially good because none of this was rehearsed.

Finally, matt asked the question he had been asking all of the other animal presenters. “Would you make a good pet?”

I glanced about my audience, wondering if anyone was actually going to say ‘yes.’ I responded with a solid, “No. First of all, we STINK.  Secondly, it’s illegal.  Thirdly, we make terrible guard dogs because we’re terrified of people.”

“What about getting a hybrid wolf-dog from breeders?”

“That’s not a good idea,” I replied. “You have two instincts in a hybrid’s head.  The wild side and the domestic side, and they don’t mix well.  So sometimes, that can make them terribly aggressive.”

The crowd took some time to digest that in. so Matt took the opportunity to ask, “What does the wolf say?”

I demonstrated the Lonesome Howl, one of the easiest ones for me to do. Katie managed to get this on video, so I’ll let that speak for itself.

We will be returning to the MuCCC in December for another show and next year, we will be returning to the Fringe Fest. I really cannot wait.