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Catawba Children Learn Respect for Nature E-mail
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Tuesday, 16 January 2007
Catawba Children Learn Respect for Nature


Herald (Rock Hill, SC)

By Denyse C. Middleton

Sep. 25--CATAWBA INDIAN RESERVATION -- The snakes, lizards, spiders and bugs some children used to run from are now part of the earthly space they share. The change came when the children became "armed with knowledge about their surroundings," said Heather Wurdemann, an after school tribal youth program coordinator. "Before, the kids screamed when they saw a snake," Wurdemann said. "Now, they know the plants and animals are indigenous to the area. They know it's native to them."

More than a dozen kindergartners to fifth-graders spend two hours each Friday at the Catawba Cultural Center learning earth science from Catawba tribal teen Roo George-Warren, who shares with them the importance of being in tune with nature. Roo, 15, a ninth-grader at Westminster Catawba Christian School, wants all Catawba children to love the earth, he said. "We should have the same respect our ancestors did," Roo said. "It's preserving the heritage because our ancestors had great respect for the animals." He said the children live by RESPECT -- Responsible Environmental Stewards Protecting the Ecosystems of the Catawba's aboriginal Territory -- and he developed the teaching manual about local plant and animal life the children use.

"I've learned that the Eastern newt does everything a frog does, but it grows in a different shape," said 11-year-old Mary Wurdemann. "Also, an earthworm has five hearts and only male crickets can make chirping noises with their legs and wings." Mary, a sixth-grader at Castle Heights Middle School, said science is her best subject and she enjoys learning from Roo. "When he teaches us, he breaks it down where we can understand," Mary said. "He makes it fun." Independence Elementary fourth-grader Nicole Ratterree, 9, agreed. "Mr. Roo is a great teacher," she said. "He teaches us about animals we don't know about. He teaches us about habitat." While searching for moss, a snake and crickets for a class terrarium, the students accidentally stepped on a blue-tail skink who broke away to protect itself leaving its tail behind.

But Castle Heights seventh-grader Joseph Thomas, 12, wasn't surprised by this, he said. Many species of lizards can do this. "The anole can lose its tail and grow it back," Joseph said. "He can break off his tail and sometimes he uses it to get away from predators." Cheyenne Beck, 9, Aleasha Hansen, 10, and Carlee Wurdemann, 7, searched for moss at a nearby creek on the reservation. Carlee saw an earthworm that "can grow to about 8 inches," she said. Cheyenne knows "all kinds of plants live in their ecosystem," she said.

The children are learning without realizing how much and how fast they are learning, Heather Wurdemann said. What Roo has done is phenomenal, she said. The students will create dioramas about Eastern, Arctic and Plains tribes and their dwellings, climates and habitats, Roo said. The project will be completed in December and the groups will compete for a prize, he said. "He came in with one purpose and that was to expose the children to something that only he could have done," she said. "Now everybody loves Friday, because Mr. Roo is coming."

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 16 January 2007 )
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