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Students, teacher observe cats for art class (VIDEO)

CatHaven1
[/media-credit] Anderson founded the Cat Haven in 1993 with the hope of educating his visitors about endangered cat species because his passion was peaked in seventh grade, according to the website.

Cat Haven provides real life experiences for class

Imagine watching a mountain lion, prowling in it’s habitat, so close you could almost touch it. This summer a group of students had an experience similar to this at Project Survival’s Cat Haven in the Sierra Mountain foothills near Dunlap.

Home economics and art teacher Sharon Scharf invited alumni Alexandra Barisic, Becky Barisic, Barisic’s mom, and seniors Ashley Erickson, Kevin Thao, Juan Ruelas and Katie Barisic to Project Survival’s Cat Haven to snap photos of the wild cats, June 7.

Scharf’s friend Wendy Debbas is involved in the Cat Haven’s activities. Debbas has lead safaris in Africa and helps support a orphanage in Kenya. Scharf traveled to Debbas’ house and snapped pictures of two 23-week old jaguar cubs.

“I have since been able to go to Wendy’s house to take photos of two jaguar cubs she was raising until they were old enough to be placed in the Cat Haven,” Scharf said. “They were 12 weeks old at the time. She kept them in a bathroom when they were not romping in the backyard with her dog. She also has a bobcat, who I photographed, who was found in an abandoned washing machine with her sister; their mom had been killed.”

Scharf saw the photos Debbas took of the different wild cats protected at the Cat Haven and wanted her students to be able to photograph the same cats.

“They [the art students] can’t draw from a published photograph and enter it in a contest,” Scharf said. “They have to draw from their own photos. Drawing from a published photo is plagiarism.”

The group met at Blossom Trail Cafe and then left for the Cat Haven. When they arrived they received an introduction and a tour.

“We were given an excellent introduction by the director, Dale Anderson.” Scharf said. “Then Jolein, a docent, gave us about a two hour tour. We learned a great deal more than we bargained for- about conservation, the mission of the Cat Haven; to raise funds to educate the people in Kenya where the endangered cats live, how to coexist with them and to not kill them.”

“We learned a great deal more than we bargained for- about conservation, the mission of the Cat Haven; to raise funds to educate the people in Kenya where the endangered cats live, how to coexist with them and to not kill them.” –Sharon Scharf, FC art teacher

Anderson founded the Cat Haven in 1993 with the hope of educating his visitors about endangered cat species because his passion was peaked in seventh grade, according to the website.

“I wanted a different way to conserve wild cat’s lives,” said Anderson. “I also wanted to get people interested in helping the cats. In the seventh grade a gentleman brought a mountain lion to my class. I do not remember the name of the gentleman but I do remember the cat’s name: Sam.”

As he got older he decided he wanted a unique way to help different species of wild cats. He hoped it would teach others about the endangered species and encourage them to help.

Erickson was one of the many vistors who learned more then they would have thought while attending the Cat Haven’s tours.

“We got a guided tour of the entire facility and spent a lot of time taking pictures of the different cats,” Erickson said. “We learned about their different personalities, how they would normally look and how many were left in the wild. It was really interesting. I had never seen those animals except on TV, so it was unique to see them so close.”

Katie and Erickson were the first students Scharf invited on the trip because of their experience with this particular kind of art.

“Ashley Erickson and Katie Barsic have both done artwork using large cat photos, so those are the two students I started with,” Scharf said. “When [Greg] Stobbe found out, he wanted Juan Ruelas to go take photos and videograph the event. Kevin Thao joined him, along with Katie’s mom and her sister.”

The group was guided from habitat to habitat, learning about each cat as they were able to observe them in a habitat very similar to their natural setting.

“We took a tour of the Cat Haven and saw lots of small and large cats,” Katie said. “There were two lions that were really cool. We almost touched one. They had a lot of jaguars, too.”

Fellow classmates agreed with Katie, reflecting on their experience on the haven and agreeing that others should visit the haven.

“I was really surprised that there were lions like that about an hour away from Fresno,” Ruelas said. “It’s awesome, it’s a unique experience and it’s something you will enjoy and not regret, unless you hate lions and cats.”

Traveling to the Cat Haven to see the cats is not the only option. The sanctuary takes its smaller cats to public events such as the Madera Fair or to other schools. The cats have also been on the TV program, The Tonight Show, and spent time with different celebrities.

Scharf would like to work with the Cat Haven to arrange a day when they could bring some of the smaller cats on campus, as the haven has not yet been presented to FC.

“I feel it would be a great opportunity for our student body to hear the presentation the Cat Haven gives to schools,” Scharf said. “Bringing one of their cheetahs and talking about the conservation program they have. I’m presently trying to talk to the right people to get this to happen.”

For more information on the Cat Haven, visit their website or make the drive to 38257 E. Kings Canyon Rd.
Dunlap, CA. 93621. The entrance fees are $9 for adults and $6 for children 6-12. Seniors are $7.50. Visitors can also contact them via email or by phone at 559.338.3216.

For more information on the field trip, email Scharf.

For more features, read the Sept. 11 article, Seniors bond through activities, strengthen relationships.

Follow The Feather via Twitter and Instagram: @thefeather and @thefeatheronline. This writer can be reached via Twitter: @ejLadd

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    Celeste CamachoAug 17, 2012 at 12:04 am

    Oh those juniors. . . way to be creative!

    Reply