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The Boys from Boys Totem Town

I can’t remember the date, but think it was probably spring of 2013 that I arranged as their teacher to bring 8-10 teenaged boys from Boys Totem Town, a Ramsey County Juvenile Corrections residential facility. There were many arrangements addressed on my end, such as transportation, chaperones, and lunch. There were many arrangements on Warner Nature Center’s end as well, such as which naturalists would be most appropriate to guide mostly African American urban dwellers, a few originating from Chicago, and all without any natural world experiences in their backgrounds. Warner rose to the occasion.

We were met by a guide who totally met the young men where they were at. Some were terrified of insects! We were guided through the boardwalk on the bog, which was a fantastic concept for them. They could not stop talking about the bog to their peers back at the facility.

Probably the most amazing part of the day was stumbled on by coincidence and serendipity of timing. There were women banding birds as part of their volunteer experience. Each boy got a bird placed in their open palms to watch it orient and upright itself to fly away, or they gently tossed it up to get it to fly away. Either way, they were astounded and awed.

The entire time spent at Warner was a blessing. I will never forget the gratitude I felt for that facility and the joy and amazement felt by my students for such an unforgettable experience.

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Pam Hoff


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