To further its mission to reach and connect with underserved urban communities, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge migrates its 33rd annual “Ding” Darling Day celebration to Lakes Park in Fort Myers on Sunday, October 10 with its Wildlife on Wheels.
The Wildlife on Wheels project was the first big step that refuge educators took toward spreading the word about conservation beyond refuge borders. Since December 2020, the mobile classroom has reached 5,620 students at local schools, 60 students at Spring Break Camp at the Fort Myers YMCA, and 625 visitors while parked at the refuge. It continued its outreach this summer at three weeklong WoW day camps, where more than 300 kids visited the classroom to learn about wildlife, habitat, and the refuge.
WoW will be at the center of the free “Ding” Darling Day @ Lakes Park. Besides tours of the classroom, the refuge and DDWS have planned a full day of activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special outdoor programs include games, nature crafts, guided walks and educational interactions with other local conservation organizations.
“We look forward to reinventing ‘Ding’ Darling Day to make that connection actually out IN the community,” said Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland, who chairs the event’s committee. “We’re still ironing out details, but expect fun and enrichment for the entire family. Watch dingdarlingdays.com for details as they unfold.”