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When herons wear hats

Michigan's broad-grinned fish beam with pride over the state's robust angling prospects, trees smile at the approaching lumberjack's ax, and a bear blissfully sips hot chocolate by a frozen lake.

Those characters from an animated workbook created by the state's department of natural resources were honored earlier this year with two national awards for promoting the preservation of state parks.

Hunting advocates are not pleased. The Michigan United Conservation Clubs, a Lansing-based group that promotes outdoor recreation, has been battling natural resources officials over the unrealistic portrayal of animals in the book, which supplements the 4th grade state-history curriculum.

A too-human hare?
—Mich. Dept. of Natural Resources

"To teach kids to respect wildlife, you have to teach them the way the real world works," said Kevin Frailey, the group's director of education. "The fox is going to be eating the rabbit. When you continuously portray the rabbit and fox wearing clothes and hanging out together, it sends a confusing message."

State officials did remove a friendly raccoon because of the increased incidence of rabies from the creatures, but no further changes to the book are planned.

The "fish with lips" approach, according to department spokesman Tim Roby, was recommended by teachers as a way to get students interested in the environmental and history lessons that are aligned with state standards. Researchers, he said, have mixed views of whether cartoon animals distort children's realistic long-term perception of wildlife.

"Kids see the world through the glass tube of their TV or computer," Mr. Roby said. "We are trying to compete for their time and attention."

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Vol. 19, Issue 29, Page 3

Published in Print: March 29, 2000, as Take Note

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