Have you ever wondered why frogs croak or snakes slither or rabbits build burrows? Perhaps your little one has stumped you more than once with obscure questions about wildlife you’ve seen while out on a family hike.
Enter Bowie resident Echo Uzzo and her local nonprofit, Echoes of Nature.
Echoes of Nature is a Bowie-based educational organization that uses live animal ambassadors to teach children and adults about the world around them.
“As a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian,” said Uzzo, who confessed to a lifelong love of animals. But after a college internship at the North Carolina Natural History Museum, she discovered that there were other way to work with animals.
Her career in animal education took her to the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, VA, and then to the Baltimore Zoo where she worked in the education department while living in Bowie. Then, she was inspired to work more locally.
“While I was at the zoo I realized that we weren't seeing any of the kids from our area, so I decided to do nature education part time and not drive as far to Baltimore,” said Uzzo.
She quit her job at the zoo and started Echoes of Nature in 2002. After that first summer, Uzzo’s “part-time job” turned full time due to local demand. In 2010 the organization became a nonprofit.
These days, Uzzo has several shows a week. Echoes of Nature does regular “walk and talk” programs through Prince George’s, Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Howard County schools. For these programs, she takes four or five of her 60 plus animal ambassadors into schools or after school programs. Following the state approved curriculum, Uzzo gives children the opportunity to learn about, and often even touch, animals they may never have seen up close before.
Kids are not the only ones having fun with Echoes of Nature. Uzzo also runs several monthly programs with adult assisted living facilities and retirement homes where she will bring in different animals on a monthly basis for more loosely structured adult educational programs.
Echoes of Nature also does in home educational programs for birthday parties that can be tailored to the specific animal interests of individual children.
Most of the animals at Echoes of Nature are small and what Uzzo calls, “one person handle-able.” She claims she can’t pick a favorite among her bunch, but she confesses to enjoy working with rats, because they are so smart and adaptable.
Uzzo loves her work and hopes to expand Echoes of Nature in the future.
“Our goal is to have a nature center so we can expand programs, have office spaces for staff and be able to do more family oriented program,” said Uzzo.
Although she confesses that traffic to and from her presentations can be challenging, ultimately Uzzo finds her work very rewarding.
“I like designing and presenting and sharing and seeing that spark of interest,” she said.
More information on Echoes of Nature can be found on their website.