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Innovative Educator: Idaho wildlife educator uses nature as her classroom

Sara Focht opens up the world of critters, creatures and crustaceans to students at the MK Nature Center.

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's note: This content is sponsored by CapEd Credit Union.

"So when I saw it, it was like, I've got to go get it," MK Nature Center Wildlife Educator Sara Focht said.

That "it" was beaver scat. Focht is so passionate about her job she jumped at the chance to scoop the beaver poop from the Boise River.

"Yeah, I have a scat collection," Focht said. "I have many animals. They're in bags and jars and bins. People bring me scat. I collect it when I'm on vacation because I have a Scat and Tracks program."

Focht has been a wildlife educator at the MK Nature Center in Boise for 14 years.

"I love teaching about nature. I'm very passionate about nature," Focht said. "I'm very excited about it, and I love sharing that with other people, and related to that is seeing their reaction."

Reactions like the excitement of the kids in her Class in the Creek program when they turn over a rock and find an insect, snail or crayfish.

"So it's just a fun experience in the water, but we're really looking for insects, what insects live under water, why are they in there, like I (the students) never thought insects lived under water," Focht said. "They're feeding the fish. Eagles are feeding on the fish. There's the whole food chain."

She likes to immerse the kids in the science of the stream, such as what crayfish like to eat.

"You put some bait in one of our viewing windows, and really within like 45 seconds crayfish are crawling out of the rocks," Focht said.

Besides their regular underwater diet, Focht said It turns out crayfish crave cat food.

In another program the kids build mini beaver dams using only what a beaver would use; sticks, mud, leaves and rocks.

"Right before you test the dam and you pour the water in is that moment when you can remind them why the dam is so important in nature," Focht said. It's holding water in the mountains. It's creating habitat."

The water may not be deep in this side channel of the Boise River near the MK Nature Center, but the lessons are. Plus, it's fun to find new things in the flow.

"I hear kids saying this is the best day of my life or this is the best field trip ever," Focht said. "And they're having a great time, and they're going to talk about it when they go home, and they're going to remember the next time they go to a creek to turn over a rock."

Focht leaves no stone unturned on her mission to expose others to the wonders of nature.

"You know, touching a worm, getting up close to a fish," Focht said. "Those are beginning experiences that could further down the road lead to more in-depth experiences with wildlife."

For more information on field trips, programs and the MK Nature Center in general, you can click here https://idfg.idaho.gov/site/mk-nature-center
If you would like to nominate an Innovative Educator, send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.

Educators, for information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation, visit www.capedfoundation.org.

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