Junior Naturalist - ITO Summer Day Camp
Mikayla attended Inside the Outdoors’ Outdoor Science School (OSS) in 2007 during her 5th grade school year. She spent a week with her teacher and classmates at Camp Cedar Crest in the San Bernardino Mountains immersed in nature’s living laboratory. At OSS, students learn by doing. The classrooms are on outdoor trails where hands-on experiments, activities, games and songs are used to teach grade appropriate science concepts such as Astrology, Forest Ecology, Geology and Wildlife Biology. Every moment at Outdoor Science School is a teaching moment. Students discover the spectacular night sky while observing constellations and study local nocturnal animals and their adaptations during night hikes. The weeklong experience also provides an ideal atmosphere for development of leadership and social skills and self-esteem. Both students and teachers leave knowing more about the natural world and themselves.
A year later, in 2008, Mikayla attended Inside the Outdoors’ Summer Day Camp and loved the experience so much that she joined the ranks as a Junior Naturalist for the following three years. Each year, at each site (3 sites and 6 weeks to choose from), a new theme is selected and activities and games are planned around that theme. The “Animal Planet” theme offered young survivalists the opportunity to learn the 10 essentials of hiking and how to construct a natural shelter, build a compass for navigation, master plant and animal identification, and face challenges that only teamwork can solve.
In 2014, Mikayla applied for an Animal Care Assistant position and has been caring for the menagerie of program animals at Inside the Outdoors ever since. Each day over 100 animals, such as a Tegu lizard, Bull python, owl, Red-tailed hawk, California desert tortoise, tarantula, rabbits and rats are handled, fed and cared for. Mikayla’s favorite ITO program animal is Dexter, the Opossum.
What began as a spark for environmental science as a 5th graders is today a fire! Mikayla has continued to follow her passion for nature and wildlife by pursuing a degree in Zoology, volunteering her time teaching high school ROP students animal health care, and working at a small animal vet in addition to caring for the wild and exotic animals of Inside the Outdoors.
Mikayla has been an animal lover and advocate for as long as she can remember, and especially passionate about crocodiles and wildlife research. Visiting the Australia Zoo that her childhood hero, Steve Irwin, made famous has always been a dream of hers. Who would have ever thought one day she would be selected to participate in an expedition on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve (SIWR). The SIWR, located on Cape York Peninsula of Australia, is a vast mosaic of rainforests, wetlands and savannas. The Reserve has been set aside as a tribute to the conservation work of Steve Irwin and a place for scientific research and discovery.
In August 2016, Mikayla was 1 of only 8 people chosen for this amazing opportunity. She spent two weeks working alongside the Australia Zoo Croc Research Team and scientists from The University of Queensland building croc traps, pioneered by Steve Irwin and the most humane crocodilian capture technique. Using the techniques she'd watched Steve do hundreds of times in videos and on TV she helped measure and tag crocodiles while getting up close to the world’s largest living reptile during the catch and release process.
All of the information gained on this expedition has helped advance Mikayla's education. Caring for the exotic animals used in Inside the Outdoors field and school programs has prepared Mikayla for her goal of becoming a zoologist and wildlife conservationist. Collectively all of these experiences have shaped her life. It has been an honor and a pleasure for Inside the Outdoors to be part of Mikayla’s journey.
Mikayla and Dexter, the Opossum
Mikayla with Teri and Robert Irwin
Mikayla with the Australia Zoo Croc Team
New best friends - Mikayla and a crocodile