Schoolchildren from Northern Lights Elementary in Superior enjoyed the benefits of nature as their classroom last week on Wisconsin Point. The third graders and their teachers are part of the Rivers2Lake Education Program offered by the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve (Reserve).
The program, which is designed to connect students to the Lake Superior Watershed, is a decade old and has been funded in part by Wisconsin Sea Grant for half of its life. The classrooms were split into four learning groups, which covered topics like trees as habitat and dune ecology, and activities like tree planting and searching for macroinvertebrates (larval insects, snails, crayfish, clams, etc.). The outing was a culmination of the program, which runs year-round. Shawn Stewart and Jasmine Haroldson, both Northern Lights teachers, led one of the learning groups, employing confidence and skills they honed through the year of mentoring associated with Rivers2Lake.
I stationed myself at the macroinvertebrate sampling station along the shores of Allouez Bay. As the students arrived, Brandi, a Rivers2Lake mentor, reminded them about the tiny creatures they would be searching for in the bay sediment. The students were outfitted in waders and provided with small nets on long poles for their sampling. After a demonstration, where Brandi dragged her net through the sediment, the students made their own discoveries.
Much conversation and enthusiasm ensued. One group found a mayfly larva. Another child thought they caught a young fish. They compared findings to when they looked for macroinvertebrates in a creek near their school, previously. When it came time to leave for the next station, none of the children wanted to come back on land.
I would say that their connection to their watershed was a success!
For information about the Reserve’s work with Rivers2Lake teachers, please see this previous story.