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Isaac E. Young Teacher Combines Wildlife And Math To Connect With Students

New Rochelle elementary students are being taught lessons at the wildlife preserve.
New Rochelle elementary students are being taught lessons at the wildlife preserve. Photo Credit: Contributed

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Learning how to build a release pen for squirrels might not be an everyday math problem at most schools, but that's just the type of thing students of Regina Simoes are learning at Isaac E. Young Middle School.

A math teacher, and licensed wildlife rehabilitator, Simoes was happy to share her knowledge when students showed an interest in her work outside the classroom. And, surprisingly, the lessons just happen to help the students understand math better as well.

To get the special program underway, Simoes created the Wildlife Rehabilitation Learning Experience, a unique study program that is part conservationism, part mathematical reasoning, and combines hands-on learning with study materials provided free by the New York State Department of Conservation.

"The kids love it," said Simoes. "They're learning about rehabilitating different animals, including squirrels - my specialty - pigeons and raptors. Most importantly, they are learning to have compassion."

The group of 34 students also met Maura Mandrano, another licensed wildlife rehabilitator, earlier this year as they began helping to rehabilitate a group of squirrels. While they did not handle the animals directly, students learned what type of formula they drink, how to weigh and bottle feed them, and where to house them during the rehabilitation. Most importantly, they learned how to release the squirrels once they're healthy.

The math part? Students also learned how to create a release pen, by calculating both perimeter and surface area to determine its overall size, and the amount of wire covering needed to keep their furry friends safe for their return to the wild.

The experience has led the students to become more engaged with the natural world, and also in the classroom.

"We have a bond now," said Simoes, "and the children are more attentive in class because I have this connection with them."

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