Home » Afield and Afloat » Midland Musings with Jenny Nguyen – NGPC Visits Columbus Middle School

Midland Musings with Jenny Nguyen – NGPC Visits Columbus Middle School

As a Public Information Officer and NEBRASKAland Regional Editor, I spend the majority of my time out in the field. Being new to the region, I’ve been on a whirlwind mission to hit as many locations as I can. I’m usually out taking photographs by myself, meeting with local park superintendents and biologists, coordinating with local media, or spending unending amounts of time in front of a computer culling through photos. Through all the hustle and bustle of trying to get as much done as I can, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there’s a lot more to the Commission than just hunting, fishing and selling permits. Community outreach is an integral part of the agency, and it happens right in the classrooms of our local communities.

My friend Jamie Bachmann is the Outdoor Education Assistant at the Norfolk office. Along with local biologists Bekah Jessen of Grove Lake WMA and Cassidy Gerdes of Pheasants Forever, the four of us girls went to Columbus Middle School to meet its entire class of 6th graders this past Wednesday.

The class was separated into 3 sessions, each with more than 60 students. I’m not going to lie. It was pretty daunting, walking into a room full of hyper 6th graders. Watch the video. They were complete animals!

Just kidding. Jamie encouraged it. In a game to teach the kids bird calls, each student was given a call of a Nebraska bird that they were not allowed to show their friends. Each student had to sound their bird call in order to find other “birds” like them in the room. Can you recognize any birds in all that chaos?

Jamie Bachmann joins in the habitat circle with the kids.

The second part of each session was dedicated to learning about habitat and ecology. The students were separated into two opposing groups for the habitat circle activity– I think that’s what it’s called. When Jamie told them that each student had to sit on the person behind them to form a stable, locking circle, unified cries of dread and shock never failed to rise from every group in all three sessions. “Ew!” “Ew!” Ewwww!” was heard all across the room. But once everyone got over their 6th grader moment, they did it! The group that accomplished the task first erupted with high fives and hurrah’s, completely forgetting their initial hesitations. The losing group collapsed, learning that one weak or missing link in their “habitat” led to destruction.

Of course, everyone LOVED Pinky the fox snake– who is native to Nebraska. Pinky is always a crowd pleaser.

And what makes all this 100x better? Being able to show young girls that they can rock the dirty hiking boots, too! Being a woman in a male-dominated field is always fun.

Cassidy Gerdes hanging out with a student.
Bekah Jessen telling the kids about river otters.

And me? What did I contribute besides taking photos? I basically told the kids that if they hate chemistry or math then they can do what I do and become an outdoor writer and photographer. Math sucks.

About Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

NEBRASKAland Associate Editor Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley was born in Nha Trang, Vietnam, and moved to the United States with her parents in 1992. She graduated from Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, California, in 2008 and completed her bachelor’s degree at UCLA in 2012. Wheatley was editor-in-chief for her high school newspaper and continued to write in college, freelancing for various publications, the Tiger Woods Foundation and writing for her blog FoodForHunters.com. After graduating college, she moved to Nebraska in early 2013 to join the Commission as Regional Editor at NEBRASKAland Magazine. She then became associate editor in 2015. Wheatley enjoys hiking, camping, horseback riding, hunting, fishing and wild game cooking.

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