JACKSON CENTER — The village park in Jackson Center was transformed into an outdoor classroom Wednesday morning. Students in the first-, third- and fifth-grades attended the Outdoors Alive program as part of their science curriculum.
The program is organized by Jan Davidson, high school science teacher; Lindsey Whetstone, vocational agriculture teacher; Laura Clinehens, fourth- and fifth-grade science teacher; Suttan Barhorst, second- and third-grade science teacher; Lori Wiswell, kindergarten and first-grade science teacher; and Sarah Kipker, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher.
“This is the fifth year of the program,” said Davidson. “The village has a park area with a woods and pond that we felt was being underutilized. The kids in the community didn’t realize what they had there.”
Davidson said since the program began they have seen more awareness of the students and how they are protecting their environment.
“When we were sitting up this morning (Wednesday) we had very little liter to pick up,” said Davidson. “The town has been wonderful in helping us by sitting up things.”
Village employees, she said, dig the soil pit for the students to learn about the different layers of soil. They make sure the paths are clear in the woods so the students can do their “forest walk.” The village also moves picnic tables to the stations where the lessons are taught.
First- and third-grade students were at the park ready to learn Wednesday morning.
“We have a variety of activities planned,” said Davidson. “Each grade level has different things to do.”
The “lesson plan” for the first-graders deal with the forest. They went on a walk, learned about pelts, pollution and played games.
“The first-graders learn about living things in the environment,” said Davidson. “On their forest walk, they look for animals in the forest. They then say whether they belong there or not.”
Some of the “animals” found included an owl, deer, alligator and fish.
The third-grade students’s lesson was about tree life. They learned about pollution, the life cycle of a tree, soils and played games.
The fifth-grade students learned about rotting. Their stations include the bee, trees, the sundial, the log and games. They also had a sack lunch at the park before returning to school.
The teachers, said Davidson, come up with the activities for the students. The high school science students research the various activities.
“The students receive the topic and I give them some questions to go from. They have to research the topic and have knowledge about the topic.”
Davidson said during the summer, the science teachers attend the Shelby Soil and Water Conservation District teacher workshop.
“We go together and work as one department,” said Davidson. The teachers borrowed an Enviroscape watershed model from Shelby Soil and Water Conservation District to show how pollution works to the students.
“This is a real collaborative effort with the younger grade teachers,” said Whetstone. “We get so busy meeting the standards required, that this is one way we can blend our classes together. I think this is a really unique program.”
Madison Wisen and Maissen Akers, both sophomores, were manning the third-grade games station.
“We had to research the subject,” said Wisen. “I learned a lot about tree rings.”
They researched a frog and flies games, a rescue race game and a couple of others for the third-graders to try.
“It’s (the games) all about animals,” said Wisen.
“I’ve learned how the ecosystem works,” said Akers.
Allan Nash, also a sophomore, was on the forest walk team.
“I learned about the animals that live in a forest and why it had things the animals need to survive in the forest,” said Nash.
Jarrod Lee researched soil and how water can travel through it.
“I looked up ground water and how it works,” said Lee, who said he is more aware of his environment because of the research he did for the Outdoors Alive program.
Akers aid he was looking forward to playing the games with the younger students.
Sophomores Andrea Allenbaugh, James Gambrel, Kennadi Reese and Jeremy Burch were in charge of the first-grade games. They used a parachute game which showed the students how important it is to keep the Earth and its resources balanced. They also taught them Predator Play, which includes a fox and a mouse and is like the Duck, Duck, Goose game.
“We learned what five basic resources plants and animals need to survive,” said Reese. “We also learned what we need to do to support the Earth.”
Allenbaugh said she is more aware of the environment after creating the games for the students to play.
Students spent 20 minutes at each station learning from the high school students.
“Everything is standard based,” said Sutton, one of the elementary school science teachers. Her third-grade students were participating in the program.
“We developed the four stations of things that we can’t do inside the classroom,” she said. “The kids really enjoy the day and look forward to it. The first class of first-graders who attended it are now sixth-graders.”
Those students, she said, went through the program three times as they advanced in grade level.
Whetstone said the real accomplish of the day is when a student goes back into the classroom and shares what he or she learned with their teacher.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.