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, animals, biodiversity, ecology, education, environment, nature, Sexual Dimorphism, teaching, Uncategorized, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Animal Facts Recap: Girls Versus Boys

By Katie Gill

Posted in animal facts, animals, biodiversity, birds, birds of prey, ecology, education, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, Mammals, nature, nature conservation, Uncategorized, Wild Animals, wildlife, wildlife education

Fun Animal Facts: July 21-27 Recap

Boy, it’s been a busy week! It’s amazing how fast seven days can fly by.

Speaking of flight, Kele the Kestrel interviewed Barb French of Braddock Bay’s Raptor Research. Photos of our video shoot are up on Instagram, and a series of videos will be appearing on YouTube as we get them edited.

Now, for the facts:

  • Giraffes’ tongues are black to prevent giraffesunburn! Eighteen inches long, these tongues are exposed to tropical and subtropical UV rays for extended periods when giraffes eat.

    (Photo Credit: Quora.com)

  • There’s debate about zebras’ stripes serving as camouflage against colorblind lions in tall grass! https://t.co/vQ7Sge04hJcapybara
  • Capybaras‬ are the world’s largest ‪‎rodents‬. Native to South America, they’re closely relates to ‪‎guinea pigs‬ & rock cavies.

    (Photo Credit: Rainforest-alliance.org)

  • Fireflies use bioluminescence during

    fireflies

    twilight to attract mates or prey, and produce a “cold light” with no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies.

    (Photo from: http://www.audubon.org/…/may-june…/catching-fireflies-camera)turkeys

  • Wild turkeys roost in trees at night, particularly oaks and pines. For extra protection from predators, they seek out areas over water.

    Photo Credit: lakecountynature.com

  • Fun Animal Fact from Barb French at https://t.co/YiefMs6aGG today: genetically, falcons, such as kestrels, are closely related to parrots.otters
  • Like humans, female sea otters tend to live longer than males. In the wild, females live between 15 – 20 years, whereas males live 10 – 15 years. Photo by seaotters.org

 

That’s everything we have for this week. Come back next Wednesday for another recap. Until then: unleash your wild side.

Posted in animal facts, biodiversity, bird mascots, birds, birds of prey, Carnivore, children's books, ecology, education, educational mascots, endangered species, Entertainment, environment, kestrels, nature, nature conservation, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, Uncategorized, wildlife, wildlife education

Animal School Presents: Birds Eye View Episode 1

 

We figured that at this point, we here at Animal School had done a lot of videos and posts about various canine species, especially regarding foxes. So, we wanted to focus a bit on something else and birds of prey (or, raptors) seemed like a good set of species to set our eyes on.  We had our resident kestrel, Kele, interview one of our local bird experts, Barb French, who works as a bander for Braddock Bay Raptor Research in North Greece, NY.

Our first video in the series focuses on the work Braddock Bay Raptor Research does and the purposes of banding, studying raptors and the process to become a volunteer and how to become a certified bander.

Stay tuned for four more videos that will go up over the course of this week. Bird’s Eye View will then take a short break before returning with some really cool new material in the coming weeks.

Stay wild!

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, nature, nature conservation, talking mascots, Uncategorized, wildlife, wildlife education

Talking Mascots & Tales of Tails

“Animal School” started by chance.

The idea to be a mascot came to me in middle school when I saw my first AHL hockey game. I watched the mascot about as much as I watched the game, realizing that I might like a job like that.  I got my chance my sophomore year of high school as a greyhound back in 2001.  After moving a few times, I got involved with local sports teams, bringing their mascots to life and at one point, working for seven teams at the same time in and around Rochester, NY.  By 2008, I started to branch out from just doing sports.  I got involved at a bird research group as their hawk and soon took part in an educational event at the nature center in Mumford, NY that served as my first speaking role as a mascot.

At the time, this nature center held an annual educational event showcasing nocturnal animals. We were stationed along a trail, having memorized scripts, setting them in motion as our field guides approached each of us with a flock of people in tow.  I played the role of a red fox.  I really dove into character, leaping about and teaching my audiences how foxes pounce on their prey.    I found that this sort of performing was incredibly fun.  It was unlike anything I had ever done before.

From there, we developed a coyote character who would serve as a storyteller for an upcoming maple syrup festival. A kestrel soon followed, doing events with Braddock Bay Raptor Research.  And in 2011, I met Karin Fires.

The nature center asked me to bring out my coyote for a program they were hosting in conjunction with the Wildlife Educators Coalition about the canine family.   I was impressed by the array of live animals the group had and after the program, I spoke with their founder, Karin, still dressed as the coyote.  The prospect of a talking canine seemed to be an intriguing addition to their programs so we arranged to meet and discuss things.

It wasn’t long before we had Kyp Coyote traveling across western New York, telling stories about how animals use their keen senses to survive, adapt, how they fit in their ecosystems and how we as humans can coexists with them. As time went on, we added more costumes, expanded our programs and started to publish educational and entertaining books for children.  And it was at this point in 2014 we realized that this was something unique that we could bring to audiences everywhere.  By autumn of 2015, I started to focus more on developing characters, creating and upgrading costumes, researching material to present about various animals (including their languages!) and drafting stories and guides for publication.  It was at this point that the idea for Animal School was planted.

And at last, in May of 2016, Animal School: A Paws-On Experience is fully fledged with a menagerie of talking mascots and an eagerness to take this to as many places as possible. And to think that if I had never suited up as the coyote for that event in 2011, I might not have ever met Karin and this program might not have ever been a reality.

So why start a blog? We wanted something to not only spread the word about what we do but to also give kids a way to learn about plants and animals in a safe and fun way, hosted by some of our wild characters.  This will also serve as a place to check out for updates, upcoming events and other fun things.

So, friends, stay tunes and stay wild!