Can you help?

Can you help?

Update February 28, 2010 - 2:39 PM CST

The last of the 7,977 name entries came in at 11:55 PM CST last night.  Good job!  Today, we’ll be sorting.  Tomorrow, we’ll ask Cub Foods how to announce the cub’s name and the recipient of the $500 gift certificate.

Your response to the name contest made me wonder if Lily’s army of fans could help in another way—engaging kids 7-12 who visit the North American Bear Center.

The Bear Center has a lot for other ages.  The Program Director tells me we have terrific video exhibits for teens and adults.  Exhibits answer the most frequently asked questions and correct the most common misconceptions.  We also have activities for small children in the “Cub Room.”

For kids 7-12, we do a few supervised activities.  We do nature walks.  We do presentations with live frogs, snakes, and turtles.  We have Camp Bear Paw day camp.  Kids work as junior researchers, removing a stuffed bear from a den and pretending to gather data (weight, blood, measurements, and placing radio-collars) under the direction of a naturalist who tells the values of the different kinds of information. The kids examine items under a dissecting microscope.  Items are brought out for presentations.

But for the many kids that wander into the Cub Room, we want items covering tables and filling drawers to grab their interest and make them ask questions.  First and foremost, we need touch and see materials—preserved/prepared/non-perishable items to handle.  We want kids immediately amazed at the variety of things to explore—items that cover as many aspects of nature as possible.  This includes skulls—especially of animals in the upper Midwest—and pelts or pieces of pelts, feet, hooves, claws, etc.  Naturalists will give presentations about why the animals differ in form and lifestyle.  We already have antlers from deer and moose.  Other items that we haven’t thought of might also be good (like a polished and varnished cross-section of a tree showing annual rings).

Another help would be taxidermy of flying birds to suspend from the ceiling (not eagles, which would be illegal) and taxidermy of various Upper Midwest wildlife to put on small shelves on the upper walls out of reach.  Most of the Bear Center is bears, of course, but for the Cub Room, we thought a variety of animals from the “World of the Bear” would be good.  The taxidermy should not look ferocious.  We want kids to learn what animals look like without thinking they are vicious.

For the above, we are hoping you or your friends have items—things mentioned above and things we haven’t thought of—that you can send.  Anything of interest.  Any information you can send with it about where it came from, what it is, and why it’s important would be helpful.  Send your contact information so we can send a receipt and you can get a tax deduction on your income taxes.  The address is North American Bear Center, 1926 Highway 169, Ely, MN 55731.

Another way to get kids engaged might be through computers with educational games and information.  A person with the right talent could work with us to engage young people’s computer minds.   We don’t know where to start with that.  Our small, mostly volunteer staff is not in a position to develop this.  We’re not even sure what is possible or how to do it.

On another subject, a way we try to raise money at the Bear Center is through sponsorships of exhibit pictures and videos.  Sponsoring a big framed picture and caption is $1,500, and sponsoring a video is $4,000.  We make a nice sponsorship plaque thankfully recognize the donor and encourage other people to do the same.  The plaque might say “Video sponsored in memory of Henry Crosby, Jr.” or “Photograph sponsored by Bill and Keefer Irwin, The Baird Foundation” or “Photograph sponsored by the Family of Russell Ott.”

Thank you again for your donations and comments and help with the names.

—Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, Biologists, North American Bear Center