PETALUMA, Calif. -- The Petaluma Wildlife Museum, located on the Petaluma High School campus, is an academic program that immerses students in lessons on wildlife conservation and preservation.
"It's the nation's only high school student-run natural history museum," Director of Classes Phil Tacata shares with a smile. "I have 64 kids that I teach how to run a museum."
"The concepts that I teach my kids reflect more of the modern-day conservation issues we are dealing with, things like habitat loss, things like poaching, things like climate change," Tacata says.
"There are aspects of animal husbandry that have to occur with this, there are aspects of building and exhibit maintenance that have to come with, there are aspects of public speaking and giving tours that come with this," Tacata adds.
During the academic year, the museum is open to the public on Saturdays to share lessons of conversation.
"We have really cool animals and really cool taxidermy, and then, after we get them with that hook, we tell them about the animal, and we tell them what they can do to help conserve them and what other people are doing to help conserve them," student Bailey Moeller says.
"We're teaching kids about conservation stories and really showing them animals, getting them inspired about protecting animals," says student Zoey Haines.
"Our goal is to influence the next generation of conservationists through ecological education, and I think this is a great place to start," said student Arwinder Singh.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the museum continues to build on the vision of its founder, Ron Head.
"This was all for kids and community to learn, to be mystified, to be inspired by wildlife both in the past like our T-Rex, and the present like our snakes," Tacata says.
In addition to more than 150 taxidermy animals, the museum also houses about 40 live animals.
Recently, Tacata started a "Zoo Haul" program that brings students and animals to local elementary schools to spread the conservation message. The museum also hosts a summer camp designed for children 5 to 12 years old.
"We can correct our mistakes, we can teach and we can influence the next generation to take action and do the right thing," said Sign.
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