MARS Schools, Education & Awareness Program
Starring the MARS ambassador birds
A key objective of the MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre is to educate the public about the protection, preservation and well-being of wildlife and wild habitats on northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
Previously, MARS didn’t have a big enough property to invite the public into our world, so we mainly spread the MARS message by taking our ambassador birds to local schools and community events throughout the Comox Valley.
No doubt many of you will have run into Supervisor of wildlife care Reg Westcott or volunteers like Pat Scott or Betty and John Robertson and seen Sawyer, Scarlett, Shakespeare, Otus or Brinley perched on a glove or outstretched arm.
Each of these raptors suffered devastating injuries that prevent them from being returned to the wild, but have found new purpose helping to educate the public about wild nature.
Usually owls and hawks like these live high in trees or in mountainous areas or hunt at night and so the public rarely comes in contact with them.
The Education and Awareness Program means that visitors at Eagle Fest in panoramic Campbell River or the Shellfish Festival in coastal Comox can witness these beautiful creatures up close and personal.
Seeing Brinley’s big yellow eyes, Scarlett’s powerful talons or Sawyer’s shiny feathers from a foot away is awe-inspiring and in many cases transformational.
MARS Operations Manager, Robert McLennan, has witnessed the effect that MARS ambassador birds have on people at many schools and community events: “Making a difference through educating the public and children is exciting. Seeing that, “ah ha” look in peoples eyes and learning how they can make a difference to wildlife is a special moment.”
The MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre: new site, limitless education possibilities
MARS founder Mary Jane “Maj” Birch preached the gospel of protection and preservation of wildlife and habitat until she died in 2015.
Her dream was to build a larger wildlife hospital to accommodate more patients and to create a north island learning centre that emphasized awareness and responsibility for our natural environment.
That dream is now becoming a reality.
The wildlife hospital is currently under construction and soon we’ll break ground on the visitor/discovery centre.
Maj wanted a place where families, particularly families with children, could get a hands-on learning experience where hands and feet are in dirt or mud.
It’s one thing to interact with birds and animals on a website in your living room, but it is entirely different to see them up close in real life.
At the new MARS we intend to make this possible by inviting the public to our new 11-acre facility near Merville, BC.
You’ll be able to tour our scenic property and apple orchards, see our ambassadors in their new home, watch ducks, swans and turtles in our wetlands area and observe eagles and owls in our large bird flyway from a designated viewing spot.
We’re still working out the details of the visitor/discovery centre, but this is where visitors will begin their immersive journey into the MARS story.
There will be exhibits, various forms of audio/visual and digital media and we hope to offer educators an interactive teaching space where school children can be taught about the wonders of wildlife and habitat on the north island.
Taking it to the schools
Finally, to further our commitment to education, MARS is currently developing a new revised school outreach program that will take the MARS message to local classrooms in the Comox Valley.
MARS has recently received government funding to hire an Education Coordinator who will be reaching out to school boards, school administrations and teachers to see how we can best meet the needs of the school curricula.
Online educational resources will likely be an important component of the new MARS outreach education strategy as more and more student learning takes place in virtual worlds.
So we anticipate blending school visits with a digital component to create a fun, interactive, educational experience.
We’ll have more information in this space on our school outreach plan as it becomes available, however rest assured Sawyer, Horus and the rest of our ambassadorial gang will be coming to a classroom near you soon.
If you are an educator, school, a community outreach group or an organization hosting a community event and would like to have MARS ambassadors on site please contact Laurie Ulm at (250) 337-2021 or click on BOOK A BIRD in the right hand margin.