Over the past few weeks, Nebraska Children has been sharing Field Journals highlighting experiences from the Conservation Management Summer Internship program. Building on the past two installments from Dakota Staggs and the boys group, we pick up with our group of youth from Omaha’s Girls Inc. and their mentor, Kyann LeViner.
My name is Kyann LeViner, and I was the Conservation Management Internship mentor for a rambunctious group of high school girls: Aliyah, Salena, and Miracle. We came from a variety of backgrounds and had a range of plans for the future, but right then we were ready to start our journey together. We started in Omaha, where the girls were from, and the girls and I got to know each other over retail therapy by shopping for supplies for our two-week journey. After our exhausting day shopping, we went to stay at Anne Hubbard’s house. We were greeted by a smile and two wagging tails — the girls spent a couple of days bonding with Nigel and Diva, Anne’s dogs.
Fontenelle Forest & The Henry Doorly Zoo
Fontenelle Forest was an adventure for the girls. When we arrived, we were met by Jim. He would be our guide for the first two days of our trip, and for that we were grateful. Jim was not only excited to have us, but knowledgeable on everything from trees to bugs and beyond. We started our Fontenelle adventure by lopping down trees on the trails. The girls and I now have an appreciation for how much work really goes into maintaining those hiking trails we all love so dearly. While we were lopping these trails, we learned the history of the people who lived there and got to see the earth lodges they called home.
The next day, we set out again in the morning ready to lop some more trials. We were pleasantly surprised when we started out at Raptor Recovery with Veronica instead. At Raptor Recovery, they house birds of prey that would otherwise not survive in the wild. We helped clean some of their cages and prepare their food. This was an interesting experience since we didn’t realize how much they eat or how dirty they could be. Some of the birds were even trained! Miracle, who was scared of the birds before this experience, was able to stand within 6 feet of the birds after realizing they wouldn’t hurt her.
After being with the birds, we went with Jim to clear some more trails. This was a hot day, and the girls worked very hard. Hopefully the trails still look good! After cutting down the trees, we got to go to the Henry Doorly Zoo for a behind-the-scenes tour from Dan the curator. This was an amazing experience! We started out with the giraffes, where the girls got to feed them — not only with their hands but with their mouths, too! The giraffe reached out her long blue tongue, wrapped it around the romaine lettuce, and just snatched it. She was picky about what part of the lettuce she was going to take first, though — she started with the leaves and if only the core was left, then it was acceptable.
After the giraffes at the zoo, we went to go see the lab and research area. The head vet took us for a tour and explained all of the innovative research they do for conservation. We were surprised to find out that at a zoo full of animals, they do research on plants too! Next was on to the rhinoceros. They weren’t inside, but we got to see their environment and learn about the training they underwent. We then went to see the lions. This was the girls’ favorite part because one of the lions even pounced at the side of the cage! The zoo trip was very eventful, and we learned a lot.
Ponca State Park
Another stop on our trip was Ponca State Park. The cabins at the park were beautiful, and we enjoyed swimming at the pool and all the nature we saw. In the morning, we got to paint targets for the shooting ranges that looked like characters from Ice Age. Turns out the girls were very good at this and may even be budding Picassos. We took a break to go shoot some muzzle loaders, and the girls hit their targets — there was a bit of trouble learning how to load them, though! After muzzle loading, we went back to painting, finished our targets, and headed to lunch. There, we got to learn how to cook in a dutch oven and had delicious apple cobbler. After that, we got to take a much-needed nap before we headed off to go kayaking. The girls were very good at this, and we went up and down the back area of the Missouri River. Miracle tipped her kayak over, though, and had to be “rescued.” We all had a good laugh about this — even Miracle.
Arbor Day Farm
The next morning we were off and on our way to the Arbor Day Farm. Joel greeted us at the farm and we started pulling weeds right away! There was a lot of work to do for an upcoming wedding. We were hard at work for two hours when we were swifted away to go have the best slushies ever: apple cider slushies! After a long day’s work and delicious slushies, we got to relax and swim in their Olympic-sized pool. The next day, we pulled some more weeds and finished our work at Arbor Day Farm.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the Conservation Management Summer Internship program! These amazing experiences would not have been possible without the active support of our partners and the generous support from the Claire M. Hubbard Foundation. Key partners include the two youth-serving organizations – Girls Inc. and Native Futures – and a host of essential program partners, including Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, The Arbor Day Foundation, the Abbott Family Ranch, Audubon Society/Rowe Sanctuary, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Fontenelle Forest Nature Center, and the University of Nebraska.
We are looking forward to continuing to pilot and refining the Conservation Management Summer Internship next summer and in growing the partnerships surrounding this work. If interested, please reach out to us to let us know how you would like to be involved in this exciting work.