Practical Naturalist class starts soon

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, February 11, 2014

There are ten different types of birds at the feeder outside my office window right now.

On the way to work (I walk), I spotted the tracks of two of Mississippi’s common mammals. Between my house and my office, I walked under 12 varieties of trees. These 24 species make up just a fraction of the plants and animals that call our state home. It’s a great thing to know what their names are and some information on each of them, but many people are completely in the dark about the living things that surround us.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Historic Jefferson College will be offering a new program in March called The Practical Naturalist. This four-week (1 day a week) evening program for adults will look at very basic ways of learning about and identifying some of the common animals and plants of Mississippi.

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Our adult students will study about mammals, reptiles, trees, amphibians, birds, insects and more! It is specifically designed for adults who want a broad overview of natural history, presented in a fun, easy-to-understand, hands-on format. The class will meet at HJC from 6:30 to 8 p.m March 18 and 25 and April 1 and 8. The cost is $60, and you must register and pay by March 7.

Some specific things we’ll be doing include learning what a skull can tell you about an animal, finding out what owls eat, deciphering a few bird calls, finding out what a REAL bug is and learning how our animals fit together in their family tree.

You’ll discover what animal also has a set of identical quadruplets, the difference between a deadly coral vs. a harmless king snake and what you can do with the inner bark of a tulip poplar tree. We’ll dispel some myths and find out the truth about rolling hoop snakes, deadly daddy longlegs and those 15-foot rattlesnakes that you read about on the Internet.

There are no homework assignments, no tests (well, maybe a fun one or two) and no grades. This program is just for the sheer pleasure of learning, and also so you don’t sound like a doofus when your kids or grandkids ask you what made that track in the mud.

When you get through with this program, not only will you be able to tell them “Kid, that was obviously a coyote track,” but you’ll also be able to say “…and let me show you how I can tell.”

Historic Jefferson College is located four miles northeast of Natchez, off U.S. 61, in Washington.

It is administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives & History.

For more information about The Practical Naturalist, please contact Robin Person at 601-442-2901, or visit our Facebook page.

Robin Person is branch director at Historic Jefferson College.