Students in Lori Aube's sixth-grade class were able to experience the ecosystems of woodlands and prairies firsthand Tuesday afternoon, as the pupils traveled to the Minnie Anderson Preserve to learn about woodland and prairie environments.
The preserve, located two miles north of Alta on M31, is owned by the Isaac Walton League and is maintained by the members of the Buena Vista University Science Club, and has been available for residents to enjoy for more than a decade.
The field trip was sponsored by the Buena Vista Soil and Water Conservation Board, who is the Partner in Excellence for Aube's class, and is the second-such outdoor learning experience the organization has helped with over the past two years.
Colleen Schwanz, a member of the Buena Vista County Soil and Water Conservation Board, said the trip would help the students immensely by allowing them to see firsthand the different aspects of prairies and woodlands.
"We think it's pretty important to help the students see what is in the woodlands and prairies for themselves," Schwanz said. "I think it helped a lot of the kids last year understand the woodlands and prairies a little bit more, and I think it's going to help this year's class out as well."
Richie Davis, the Vice-President of the Buena Vista University Science Club, agreed wholeheartedly with Schwanz.
"A field trip like this really lets them see this a lot better than just reading about it in a book or watching it on a video," Davis said. "This lets them see, hear and touch it for themselves. I think they can get a better grasp of what is in a woodland and prairie by actually going there and experiencing it for themselves."
The students spent the first half-hour of the field trip exploring the preserve, as they were able to learn about native grasses, identify the different types of trees by the bark found on the trunk and gain new knowledge about controlled burning and how it, if properly managed, can refresh the forest.
Davis, who has been helping classes at the preserve for three years, then took the students on a more detailed tour of the park, explaining the differences between the woodland and prairie ecosystems to the pupils.
A biology and environmental science major at BVU, he said he has enjoyed helping the students learn more about an area he has helped maintain as a member of the BVU Science Club for the past four years.
"It's good to take them through the ecology of the preserve and help them see the edge effect between the woods and the prairie," Davis said. "It's been fun to get a chance to talk to the students and teach them more about what's out here."
Due to the rural location of the Minnie Anderson Preserve, Schwanz said many of the students were unaware of the existence of the wildlife sanctuary, and said that was another huge side benefit to taking the pupils on the field trip.
"I'm sure a lot of the kids didn't even know the preserve was here before this trip, so that is something we're happy to show them," Schwanz said.
In addition to the field trip to the preserve Tuesday, Schwanz will assist Aube in a variety of other projects throughout the year, including constructing birdhouses and helping the sixth graders maintain a small pond in their classroom.