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Lakeland holds annual science day for fourth graders

In Michigan, one of the fourth grade mandates involves increased awareness in the sciences. Branch County Soil Conservation District hosts an annual fourth grade Science Day on the grounds of Lakeland Elementary in Coldwater, MI. The staff from the District, along with volunteers, presented hands-on talks about various aspects of conservation.

There were seven stations with a myriad of nature topics. The acreage provided paths for the students to travel on as they moved from one presenter to another. Multiple ecosystems were explored and discussed between the students and those at the stations as well as among the classmates.

Southern Michigan Invasive Species Team member Jared Harmon talked to the students about invasive species in the area and how they can be controlled. Harmon had pictures of some of the animals and plants which he had the children identify. He also shared some of the tools that are used to minimize the unwanted plants and animals.

Farm Bill Biologist Lyndsey Morrison used a game to share her topic about wildlife. She discussed the relationship between predators and their prey. Morrison asked a number of questions and those who answered correctly became the predators in the game. The other students were the prey and needed to find five “things” to eat while avoiding the predators who were allowed to “eat” two of the prey.

USDA-NRCS District Conservationist Marcus Reynolds was stationed at the pond where he shared information about the water cycle. Each student received a printout with an explanation of the different processes concerning the various ways water moves in the atmosphere. The one class received an extra lesson in nature as they observed a wild turkey fly by the pond.

CTAI Conservationist Jordan Beehler talked to the students about healthy soil. She had several plastic totes containing soil samples for the children to look through and discover what was living in the “dirt”. Beehler wanted to help the students see the connection between the healthy soil and living organisms that reside there.

Volunteer Melanie Stoughton was also stationed at a pond location where the discussion focused on macro invertebrates and pond ecology. The children were allowed to use long-handled scoops to find some of living organisms that were located in the waterway. Trays and buckets served for observation along with magnifying glasses and identification sheets. There was a lot of discussion about what was found in the water.

Conservation District Board Member Diana Lutz took the students on a bird walk. She shared a myriad of pictures to help the children properly identify any birds they saw as they traveled through the area. The numerous forested areas were helpful as the students searched for birds and found other natural wonders in the process

Executive Director Kathy Worst and MAEAP Technician Mike Censke presented a talk on trees with an opportunity for the children to plant some White Cedar seedlings that were donated by the Conservation District. The District is hoping to continue planting trees and developing the property.

While fulfilling the required mandates was the goal, getting the children out into the outdoor center for  an enjoyable day was definitely an added benefit.