By Britne Reeves
A group of fourth and fifth graders from the Edgewood Independent School district have adopted a mascot – a porcupine named Porcia.
And Porcia – a real porcupine with hundreds of barbs – has inspired this handful of students to participate in a contest called Destination Imagination.
Destination Imagination is a competition that encourages students to take risks, focus and frame challenges while incorporating science, technology, engineering, mathematics, the arts and service learning, said Larissa Gowin. Monica Price is the gifted and talented and Destination Imagination coordinator at Edgewood ISD. Destination Imagination also pushes students to build on their strengths while learning patience, flexibility, persistence, ethics and respect for others and their ideas. This time, the teacher just happened to be a porcupine.
Porcia the Porcupine was found by one of the students in the Hill Country a few months ago. It was rescued and brought to Edgewood.
Gowin said once she found out about the porcupine through her son, the animal “stole her heart, and she knew there needed to be something done.”
“My son and I became involved with the project over the summer. We learned that we did not have the skills to take care of Porcia properly, and she had already stolen our hearts,” she said.
A porcupine’s natural habitats are those that are rocky, deserts or hilly forests. Many that are abandoned young do not live to adulthood. Without the proper care, Porcia would likely die.
The Edgewood students, along with help from their sponsors, reached out to Crosstimbers Ranch in Terrell. The 10-acre ranch rehabilitates animals that have been found injured or abandoned and then releases them back into the wild. The ranch has taken in bobcats, opossums, dogs, cats, a variety of birds, coyotes and skunks. The ranch is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) entity that relies on volunteers and donations.
Valerie Marler heads the ranch. “She has never taken care of a porcupine before, but Porcia is in capable hands. Valeri needs volunteers badly and she needs them daily. She takes care of up to 150 animals a day, depending on the season.”
Seeing the need for volunteers, the students joined Destination Imagination and embarked on a challenge called Project Outreach, which is a service-learning program. Teams across Texas showcase their solutions to a problem (such as Porcia’s problem) and showcase their solutions at tournaments. The students are now focused on rehabilitating Porcia and releasing her back into her natural habitat.
Even with the student’s help, more volunteers are still needed, according to Gowin.
“The students have become community partners with Valeri and Crosstimbers Ranch to raise awareness over the need for donations and volunteers, and also to help save Porcia. We are ambassadors and educators and we hope to teach our students and everyone involved the importance of keeping wildlife wild.”