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Pathways to Nature wet, muddy and enriching
Murdock fourth-graders laughed, splashed and calculated their ways to a deeper understanding of nature, natural resources and their studies, when they headed out to Chet and Angela Vogt's 3 Creeks Ranch in Elk Creek.
Prior lessons and presentations in the classroom prepared students for the April 3 field trip, which offered them the opportunity to learn more about nature on a working cattle ranch.
As they rotated through stations, the students in Jan Beaufait's and Jill Egly's classes had ample time to work with agency specialists and professionals — one-on-one and in small groups — until all their questions were answered.
Lee Morgan, U.S. Forest Service fisheries biologist, showed students how to use charts to identify macroinvertibrates.
Finding their own mystery creature, identifying it and learning more about it brought a sparkle to the students' eyes, as they realized how textbook information can be used as part of an adult career.
Students moved onto the wildflower tables where they used written clues, multiple-meaning words and visual observation to identify 20 unnamed flowers, shrubs and trees, and learned about the past and present uses of these natural resources. It was a detective game for the 9- and 10-year-old scientists in the field, said Egly.
Retired Natural Resources Conservation Service rangeland specialist Dennis Nay took each class separately on a nature walk along the ridge and creekside of Clover Creek.
In addition to explaining the plants, animals, birds and land forms seen, May let the students loose to see how high and fast they could climb the steep ridge that deer and feral pigs trot up so effortlessly.
"It never fails to amaze me how much the kids love running up the hill and sliding back down," May said.
Students were also excited to see an eagle's nest and find a box turtle in the creek.
During their first break, water supplied by Superior Products, jerky provided by Denise Groesbeck and the Glenn-Colusa Cattlewomen and trail mix donated by Mike and Andrea Ware re-charged the students before heading out for more learning.
Bureau of Reclamation specialists Jake Berens and Natalie Wolder taught students to measure depth, velocity and volume of water flowing in Clover Creek, and monitor the quality of water.
Using brightly colored tennis balls and stopwatches, students were able to see how fast the water was flowing and to later calculate the volume of water (20 football fields, 1-foot deep each day), using their multiplication and division skills.
Netting balls and manning the stopwatches as adult work was a revelation to students as to what careers could possibly entail, Egly said.
Students also put state measurement standards (perimeter, area and volume) to practical use by building a rock dam across Susan Creek.
Once the paper and pencil calculations were completed, students plunged into the mud and creek to gather rocks and build a temporary dam 10 inches deep, working together to move rocks and place them to stop the water flow.
Students, teachers and parents all pitched in, getting wet, muddy and involved.
"What an incredible day," said parent volunteer Erin Parisio. "Even us parents get to learn by doing."
Natural Resources Conservation Service partner biologist Melany Aten gave students background on doing population counts and provided a hands-on counting activity geared toward counting diverse populations and seeing the effects of coloring and camouflage on wildlife survival.
The day was capped by a tri-tip lunch cooked by Steve and Jill Stoltenberg and served by parent volunteers. The menu included all locally produced items, including beef, rice chips from Lundberg Family Farms and fruit.
The costs were paid by money Egly's students raised at their March 9 read-a-thon.