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Students explore 'ecology experience'

Tom Cowper, park ranger for Flowing Lake County Park, shows a one-winged hawk from Sarvey Wildlife Center to Haller Middle School students at River Meadows County Park, June 11. - KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times
Tom Cowper, park ranger for Flowing Lake County Park, shows a one-winged hawk from Sarvey Wildlife Center to Haller Middle School students at River Meadows County Park, June 11.
— image credit: KIRK BOXLEITNER The Arlington Times

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS Haller Middle School students got a first-hand lesson, literally, in environmental stewardship at River Meadows County Park, June 11.

It was a full day in the field for 125 seventh-graders, eight teachers, 13 parents and four park rangers, as they arrived at 9:30 a.m. for the four-hour "ecology experience," Haller students' first-ever such event at River Meadows.

Haller science teachers, including Becky Bradley and Allison Sayre, helped park rangers, such as Erika Miranda, guide students through a series of ecological consciousness-raising activities.

"The students need more opportunities to be outside, actually interacting with nature," Sayre said.

Bradley explained that students applied their classroom knowledge through exercises such as "food web," in which they studied how different animal and planet species connect to one another, and a presentation of birds from the Sarvey Wildlife Center.

"It really demonstrates the importance of not littering and of taking care of habitat," Bradley said. "We've discussed how the watershed serves as a filter, how humans impact it, and the effect of flooding on forests."

Students also conducted a dissolved oxygen test in the Stillaguamish River and learned about the fish and wildlife that inhabit it, as well as about how to protect the watershed.

Miranda passed on the seven principles of "Leave No Trace" to the students, for when they visit parks and other areas of nature:

1. Plan ahead and prepare.

2. Dispose of waste properly.

3. Leave what you find.

4. Minimize the use and impact of fire.

5. Be considerate of other visitors.

6. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

7. Respect wildlife.

"It teaches them to respect and appreciate the environment," Miranda said. "As a group of seventh-graders on their last week of school, I expected them to be excited to be outside, but they've also been really attentive and open to learning new information. I'm happy to see how much they know already."

Seventh-graders Macy Mackey and Colton Rocha both enjoyed the nature hike, during which they wrote down observations and identified plants and animals.

"You have to respect the environment, or else it'll affect the growth and development of animals," Mackey said.

"It teaches you not to disturb the ecosystem that the little bunnies need for their lives," Rocha said.

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