Gasps of delight filled the Bedford Hills Elementary School gym as an opossum peeked her head out of a crate and grabbed a chunk of mushroom to nibble on. The opossum was an animal ambassador from Teatown on her very first school visit during an enrichment opportunity for third graders.
Teatown environmental educator and animal care assistant Maddy Schroeder tried to coax the opossum out further with berries and other treats as she spoke to students about the animal and her habitat, but the marsupial was happy to stay inside her cozy crate.
Schroeder brought a variety of local wildlife with her for the visit, introducing students to everything from a black rat snake and a snapping turtle to a mourning dove and a barred owl.
Schroeder’s presentation focused on wildlife that can be found in students’ own backyards and community, with an emphasis on the biodiversity of our area as well as how humans and other animals play a part in different species’ populations. She noted, for example, that humans and the extinction of wolves in our area contribute to the overabundance of whitetail deer and the increase of coyotes.
Students had many questions and observations that they were excited to share.
“How does the owl defend herself?”
“I saw a coyote at the park once!”
“What’s the most dangerous snake in the world?”
Before they left, students had the opportunity to touch the black rat snake — the largest species of snake in New York State.
“I hope you’ve learned a few ways we can be good neighbors to our animal friends and live in harmony with them,” Schroeder said to students.