School children around the world are learning about the kangaroo through the Mr Boo program, which aims to teach children about wildlife conservation.
The program started at a wildlife shelter in Elphinstone in central Victoria, was picked up by a primary school in Melbourne, and has since spread to other parts of the world.
The Mr Boo kangaroo education-based program designed for primary school-aged children is being taught in Kenya and Germany and will soon be in some schools in Iran, Iraq and China.
The program was created by wildlife rescuer Nikki Medwell, who wanted to take her love of kangaroos to a larger audience.
“It’s basically trying to get the younger generation to appreciate our wildlife,” she said.
After Grade 4 teacher Melinda Whittle paid a visit to the shelter, she was inspired to include the program at her school, Our Lady of the Pines at Donvale in Melbourne’s east.
She said it had a great connection to the curriculum sustainability unit, and taught students about their local ecosystem and wildlife.
“We’ve got lots of kangaroos in the area and it’s been a way for the students to identify the threats, such as development and loss of habitat, and the result for our local kangaroos,” Ms Whittle said.
The global connection with other schools began with a Facebook penpal program connecting Ms Medwell with educators wanting to teach their students English, and about conservation.
“If [the students] want to learn they have to read [the material] in English and if they want to submit their request to become a Roo Ranger they have to write a letter in English,” Ms Medwell said.
Learning to empathise with wildlife
The resources of the self-funded program are in the form of books and swap cards featuring pictures and information about kangaroos.
Children’s author Margaret Warner has also donated her Kangaroo Footprints book, which features activities and facts about Australia’s kangaroos.
Once the children request to become Roo Rangers they submit their stories or pictures to receive a Roo Ranger certificate.
“It asks them to always protect and honour kangaroos and it also says we hope that one day they’ll grow up to become a wildlife protector,” Ms Medwell said.
Ms Whittle said another benefit of the program was that it linked students with wildlife groups in the community.
“It’s a great real-life opportunity for us to have access to someone who is out there in the field working with our wildlife,” she said.
Ms Whittle’s students recently visited their local state bush park where they saw a mob of kangaroos and also met local wildlife carers.
“The kids absolutely loved it,” she said.
Kenyan students learn about Mr Boo
Conservation issues are relevant to students across the globe.
For the past three months, students at Maryland Nursery School in Likoni, Kenya have been learning about their country’s elephant program, in response to poaching, as well as about Australia’s kangaroo wildlife shelters.
Teacher Beryl Organa said the Mr Boo program was a good way to introduce children to conservation issues in a fun and accessible way.
“They get to draw pictures of the kangaroos and do colouring in among many other fun activities, like role playing,” she said.
“They have learnt to empathise with the animal family — they are now talking more about caring for animals.”
The legacy of Mr Boo
The program first came about when Ms Medwell and her husband moved to their bush property in Elphinstone several years ago.
Their 60-acre property was home to kangaroos, which was the catalyst for the couple to open a wildlife shelter.
Their first rescued kangaroo was named Mr Boo.
Growing up in the 1970s, Ms Medwell’s introduction to animals was largely African ones — elephants, giraffes, zebras and the like — and she was determined to change that for future generations.
“I don’t ever remember seeing anything really about Australian native animals — even in story books,” she said.
Topics: community-and-society, human-interest, schools, primary-schools, environment-education, education, animals-and-nature, animals, disabilities, people, elphinstone-3448, donvale-3111, china, iraq, iran-islamic-republic-of, germany, kenya, melbourne-3000