Day with Nature provides students good learning tool

MANISTEE — Living in Northern Michigan gives educators the opportunity to take advantage of a great outdoor classroom when it comes to science related activities.

Reubon Ramon who put on the display about Native American Flutes and Music and woodcarving allows students to see what sage smells like.

Reubon Ramon who put on the display about Native American Flutes and Music and woodcarving allows students to see what sage smells like.

Ever since 1984 the MSU Extension/Manistee County 4-H has presented the popular “Day with Nature” at Magoon Creek National Area for county fourth grade students. It is a day of taking the classroom outdoors and letting the children view displays on a variety of topics from people who work in those areas or have a strong interest in them.

4-H Program coordinator for Benzie and Manistee xcounties Deb Laws said holding an event of this nature can be a challenge this time of the year with the weather. Over the years they have had snow, rain and wind that have given them problems.

“We had hoped to hold it Wednesday, but there was thunder and lightning early in the day, so we cancelled,” said Laws. “Our farthest away guest speaker was coming from by Cadillac and we didn’t want them to drive over for nothing.”

Despite a few quick showers moving through the area and some stiff winds off Lake Michigan on Thursday they were able to get in the Day With Nature events. Students from Brethren, Trinity Lutheran, Manistee Catholic Central, Onekama Consolidated and Kennedy Elementary schools were able to take part in the event.

Bear Lake students could have participated on the first day, but a conflict prevented them from taking part on Thursday.

“It’s an event that we are especially proud of to do and is mostly been funded by 4-H funds,” said Laws. “Bear Lake Schools couldn’t make the rain day, and we feel bad about that. However, we will be visiting them today and taking packets out to their class like the ones we gave to the kids today.”

Scattered around various points of Magoon Creek were exhibits on stream ecology, forestry conservation, history, birds of the area, area soil types, and primitive skills and Native American flutes and music.

“One of the things we like to emphasize is this just isn’t a field trip,” said Laws. “There is a lot of thought put in this and we have actually tried to cover a lot of sciences that we know the teachers are doing with the kids. We kind of like to look at this, as the pinnacle of their science programming through the year. For a lot of students and teachers it does hit home and they say ‘wow, we studied that.'”

She said most of the classes really make a day out of the outing and bring their lunches that they eat at Magoon Creek’s picnic area.

Laws said her plan is to create a similar program in Benzie County at a different location.

“Our office secretary is here today and we are attempting to film this as a man in the street type of experience to show what is seen on a day like today,” said Laws. “What I want to do is take that piece to the Benzie teachers and show them what we do here.”

Laws said the teachers approached her about making sure all the exhibits are related to their studies.

“One of the Kennedy teachers told me they had to actually write a grant for busing, but they needed us to incorporate certain components in this today to meet their grant requirements,” said Laws. “What that is this year is materials from Project Wet and Project Wild  that we gave away meets their requirements. Project Wild is a lot of different wildlife and experiments and for Project Wet it is a download the teachers will receive that they can use on a projector to show the groundwater systems.”

Laws said the kids will also get some wildflower seeds and stickers to remind them of their day.

KND teacher Vivian Peck said her students look forward to the event every year.

“They provide this every year for us and have these people share their knowledge with us on nature,” said Peck. “It’s like the hands-on is always better as the kids get to feel it and touch it, and talk about it. What is fun is they study some of these things in class and the kids get to actually see it.”

Manistee Conservation District specialist Kayla Knoll and Little Manistee Watershed Conservation Council member Joyce Durdel gave a very informative presentation on stream ecology. They said the students really get into those type of activities that allow them to do more than just a presentation.

“Kayla does a lot of work with aquatic insects, so a lot of we do is with the macroinvertebrates,” said Durdell. “In our organization (Little Manistee Watershed Conservation Council) we do the same kind of studies on the Little Manistee River.”

Durdell said they incorporated some of those activities for the students to check the health of Magoon Creek.

“Today we went to Magoon Creek to get samples and the kids will search for aquatic insects,” said Durdell.

The students had a series of things they needed to look for and then fill out a form creating their own study of the creek. It was another good example of the many hands-on activities that took place during the day.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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