BOWLING GREEN - Mona Rutger supports the weight of a bald eagle on one arm. In front of her, 125 elementary school children are a captive audience, fascinated as the bird shows off its awesome wingspan.
But each pair of wide eyes is lost on this eagle. He's blind.
The visitors are taking part in the 2006 Wood County Earth Camp at the Historical Center and Museum.
Yesterday, kids in grades 1 through 6 at the Wood County Community Learning Center day camps had a chance to learn about how to live in harmony with their environment.
Ms. Rutger is a licensed rehabilitator with Back to the Wild, a nonprofit organization based in Castalia, Ohio. She works with injured animals to help them heal and eventually return back to the wild.
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"We're counting on kids like you to do a better job than the past generation did," she told her audience.
Ms. Rutger brought with her a motley crew of birds, snakes, and amphibians to teach the group of youngsters not only about the characteristics of each animal, but also how to protect the creatures' habitats.
"This is not nature," she said, holding up plastic six-pack binding and some fishing line. "This is human carelessness."
The animals she's brought are kept by Back to the Wild; they have been injured in such a way that they couldn't survive in their natural habitat, like the blind eagle.
"The kids pay attention the whole time, and they really get a good message," said Amanda Bradford, education assistant for the Wood County Solid Waste District, which co-sponsors the camp with the Wood County Educational Service Center.
The children also get more hands-on experience in how to handle waste. Six stations are set up, each with a different lesson and activity. Most are related to water pollution.
Waiting for Ms. Rutger's presentation, Karen Hayes is holding a slightly damp feather. The 6-year-old from Rossford said she got it learning about oil spills.
"There's a bunch of oil on the birds so it takes a long time to clean them off," she said. "It took us two or three minutes to clean off one feather, but they have a bunch."
Karen said it's important to look after the environment "because it was God's creation and everybody has to take care of it."
Dana Wilkes of Northwood, 11, agreed. "If people damage the environment, there wouldn't be as much left for us that we need," she said.
Paulie Shaffer, environmental educator for the Solid Waste District and one of the camp organizers, said she tries to make the activities very hands-on, to keep the children interested and learning at the same time.
"My true heart is to be helping the Earth stay in good shape so our Native American ancestors won't be ashamed of us," she said.
The kids at the camp are an instrumental part of keeping the earth healthy. "They're our future environmentalists," she said.
Contact Carin Yavorcik