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MOUNT EATON -- A live demonstration of predator versus prey played out in Beacon Hill Community School gymnasium recently.
The community school invited several naturalists from The Wilderness Center to provide its seventh- and eighth-grade students with a greater knowledge of ornithology (the study of birds) and local geology. The naturalists also organized an intricate game of tag demonstrating how coyotes (the predator) and rabbits (the prey) coexist in their natural environments.
"This is the first year we invited The Wilderness Center and they're such a great local resource. We're glad to have them," Beacon Hill superintendent Bradley Herman said.
The predator or prey activity pitted three or four students, posing as coyotes, against the rest of their classmates, playing the role of rabbits, to show how different types of wildlife interact within an ecosystem.
Program coordinator Carrie Elvey ran the kids through multiple scenarios to demonstrate the need for keeping the environment in balance. If there were more coyotes than rabbits, the coyotes would run out of rabbits to eat. If there were more rabbits than coyotes, they would deplete their food supply, leaving the coyotes to eat starving and sickly rabbits.
"Everything interacts and there needs to be a balance to all things," Elvey said. "Geology dictates the plants in an environment, which dictates the types of birds and animals in that environment."
Before their game of coyote and rabbit, the students split into two groups to learn more about Ohio geology with education program manager Lynda Price and Ornithology 101 with program coordinator Carrie Elvey.
"We try to take what they see in their daily life and bring a little more scientific understanding to it," Price said.
In her Ohio Rocks! lesson, Price hands out cartons full of eight different types of rocks that students may see walking around the state. She also shows them how to identify fossils found inside some of those rocks and why certain rocks are in different parts of Ohio.
Seventh-grader Grace Miller had already learned about the different types of rocks last year and what minerals make rocks.
"I already knew a lot, but I liked seeing the fossils and finding them in the rocks," Miller said.
Elvey's ornithology lesson focuses more on bird behavior and anatomy rather than identifying types of birds. She passed around a barn owl's wing and students tried to identify 25 uses for a bird's feathers.
"Birds are fascinating and complex creatures. I like to show how birds work and not just teach them identification," the program coordinator said.
The Wilderness Center realizes not every kid can visit its facility, so the school programs allow students to learn about nature in any setting even if they're not outdoors.
"We don't have bussing, so we try to bring in a variety of programs and this was the first time we had something science related," Herman said. "This program is very engaging and it's a great opportunity for kids to learn."
Reporter Emily Morgan can be reached at 330-287-1632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.