Snakes. Spiders. Insects. Lizards.
Words that may make some people squirm. But for Haley Jernigan (’16), they’re all part of a day’s work. Jernigan is the owner of Into The Wild World, a company that travels to local schools, churches, and festivals with the goal to introduce young audiences to the ideas of science, nature, and the climate change crisis.
The motivation for the creation of Into the Wild World was simple: to cherish the planet and its inhabitants. Jernigan believes that the bridge between humans and nature needs to be rebuilt, and one of the best ways to do that is through education.
The process of education at Into the Wild World can take many forms. The live animal education service includes 4-5 different species, ranging from a brooks kingsnake, to a russian tortoise, to several different kinds of tarantulas.
The company also has a natural history program education service, which is meant for “hands on education” and allows students to interact with fossils, feathers, bones, and eggs. Students in this setting get to learn about topics like the scientific process, preservation, and how to protect the planet in their everyday life.
In addition to the advertised interactive programs, Jernigan explains that Into The Wild World also customizes programs to fit certain topics, such as the time that they visited a local scout troop to explain snake safety and identification.
Jernigan explains that working with young audiences when it comes to live animals can be a matter of changing perspectives for many of the participants. “It’s not uncommon to hear ‘eww’ or ‘that’s creepy!’” she says. But, pushing past those first assumptions is one of the most important parts of the job for Jernigan.
“By the end, [they] will be holding or hugging the same creature they were previously afraid of. That, to me, is incredibly rewarding” she explains, adding that this process of “easing the tension” between nature and humanity is one of the main goals of the presentations, and of her company as a whole.
Jernigan says that her passion for nature and wildlife started at a young age, but that her time at Campbell University helped solidify what she wanted to do with that passion. Adding that her degrees in biology and environmental science gave her knowledge and experience that helped her understand “the world’s dire need of environmentalists.”
Jernigan hopes to inspire this same passion and knowledge in the students she gets to work with through her presentations. Recently, Jernigan says that she was able to present to a local charter high school. Though she readily admits that high schoolers can sometimes be “a tough crowd,” she says that the program went wonderfully, and that several students approached her afterward about pursuing a scientific field of education after high school.
Jernigan explains that she wishes to provide the same encouragement to these students that her professors at Campbell gave to her.
“I am forever grateful for the wonderful professors at Campbell who saw my interests, and instead of disregarding them, added fuel to my dreams and helped me become who I am today.”
Into the Wild World is part of the Orange Owned network. The Orange Owned business directory provides alumni to patron alumni-owned businesses.