Blair Oaks Elementary School students heard the sounds of the outdoors inside their gymnasium Tuesday.
Ralph Duren presented "Calls of the Wild," introducing students to a range of animal calls that he produces solely with his mouth and sharing stories about the outdoors and Missouri wildlife.
"I don't know a lot of other languages and a lot of other words -- like some people can speak five or six or seven other foreign languages. I have enough trouble 'cause English has so many words, right? But animals have just a very few words," Duren told the children.
He proceeded to introduce students to bird calls, like those of the blue jay, cardinal, common yellowthroat and killdeer. He also taught them a few -- with one condition.
He had each student raise a hand and repeat after him: "I promise I will not practice the great blue heron (call) until I get home."
Duren said he didn't want to drive the teachers crazy.
"This is the most obnoxious sounding bird that I've ever heard," he said.
Duren grew up on a farm, where he said he would "talk" to animals, and he began calling turkeys at age 6 when he started hunting. One year, he entered a turkey calling contest, and when a teacher got word of how he had performed, he got to do a demonstration for his class.
"After that, on a regular basis, kids would say, 'Hey, make that sound,'" Duren said.
Since then, he's done programs for the Conservation Department and done presentations at schools all over.
"So I've been doing programs since the third grade," he said with a laugh.
Duren taught children the sounds they might hear in a marsh or wetland. The owls are some of his favorites.
Duren encouraged students to get outside and try a few animal calls themselves.
"So this weekend, the weather's going to be nice," he said. "Don't stay in and play video games and watch TV ... but go outside and listen and see how many animals you can hear because there are over 300 kinds of birds in Missouri. Just birds. All you've got to do is repeat what they're saying."
In the accompanying video, Ralph Duren presents animal calls to Blair Oaks Elementary School students.