We’re excited to kick off a NEW column: Ask Ms. Jen, featuring Educator Jennifer Bradshaw from the Woodcock Nature Center!

Those of you whose children have attended programs at Woodcock Nature Center in recent years likely know Jennifer Bradshaw, the incredibly knowledgeable, charismatic, and kind educator and early childhood education coordinator. She has an enviable way of getting tiny humans to be engaged on hikes, sit still and listen to stories, do nature-themed crafts, and, of course, willingly “pet” critters ranging from turtles to lizards to cockroaches. (Seriously!)

And it’s not just locals who admire her; in 2019 she was awarded the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Award given by the COEEA, the Connecticut Outdoor & Environmental Education Association. She now is an active Board Member of the COEEA, as well as a board member for RCK Preschool.

In Ask Ms. Jen, we’ll ask burning wildlife and nature questions submitted by readers via email at editor@ridgefieldmagazine.com or via the Ridgefield Magazine Facebook page. Without further adieu, here’s our first question.

Q. Ms. Jen, what type of feather is this? Our guess is a hawk.

A. The feather you found was a Wild Turkey!!!!! 

Wild turkeys have an impressive wingspan of up to 5 ft and only live about 3-5 years in the wild. Adult males are called “toms” and females are called “hens.”

Birds molt – or lose their feathers – periodically to allow worn or damaged feathers to be replaced with new ones. This happens all throughout their lives. Cool fact…you can cut the very top of the pointed end of a feather and get a birds DNA! (Editor’s note: um, this is really cool…)

Many people believe finding a feather is like receiving a message from higher heavenly realms. Feathers symbolize power, freedom, strength, wisdom and honor.

I look forward to answering the next question!

About Ms. Jen:

Jennifer has been visiting the center since she was five years old. She would come to the center with her father to hike and look for snakes and frogs. Many years later she began volunteering at WNC as an animal care volunteer. In October of 2013 she was offered a position on staff- and could not have been happier. Jennifer wears many hats at the center including teaching our wildly popular “Mommy, Me and the Natural World” program that she created and all other preschool aged children’s programming. In addition she oversees all the center’s resident animals and works closely with our birds of prey. During the summer months she serves as the Assistant Camp Director who also manages our CIT Program.

Jennifer is very involved with several advocacy and association committee’s- both town and statewide . She is on the Wilton Youth Council’s “Free Play Task Force” Committee and is the President of the CT Chapter of the Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools. In 2018, she became a certified Play-Maker whose job it is to spread the power of optimism to children who need it. Jennifer was awarded the 2019 Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Award given by the COEEA organization and now is an active Board Member of that Organization. This award is a testament to her hard-work and dedication to environmental education. Jennifer lives in Ridgefield with her husband and their young children Jase and Nicky.