Outdoors School offered to LMS students

Sixth-grade students given chance to learn about the ecosystem

By Cherise Kaechele / The La Grande Observer / @lgoKaechele

The cold and rainy weather didn’t deter sixth-grade students from learning about what’s around them during their Outdoors School Friday afternoon put on by the Blue Mountain Conservancy.

There, sixth-grade students walked from La Grande Middle School to Pete’s Pond in La Grande, said Laura Navarrete, of the conservancy.

The students went through four different stations to learn about what is in the Grande Ronde Valley’s ecosystem

The macroinvertebrates station taught the students what a macroinvertebrate is and what they do to water quality and the food chain.

“Kids then proceeded down to the pond armed with dip nets and proceeded to scoop up mud and bugs and deposit them into a pail,” Navarrete said. “(The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) biologist Justin Zapata then walked the kids through a dichotomous key to identify what they had found. Discoveries included dragonfly larvae, diving beetles, stoneflies and leeched.”

Another station had animal skulls where students had to determine whether the animal was predatory, prey, carnivore, omnivore or herbivore and which sense was most important to the animal.

The next station taught them the components that make up a habitat, Navarrete said.

Students were split into groups and assigned a species. They would have to determine whether that species would have all the habitat components they would need to survive at Pete’s Pond.

The final station focused on plant life forms and how they are different using plant form keys. The categories included grasses, grass-like plants, vines and climbing plants, shrubs and trees. The students then went on a scavenger hunt to find each life form and examine them under a microscope, Navarrete said.

“This gives the kids a better idea of what’s out there,” Navarrete said of learning outdoors. “This is the first time we’ve done it. We’d like to try and do this every year.”

Retired teachers, current teachers and volunteers helped to bring the students closer to what they’ve been learning in class, she said.

“We want to make sure people are preserving the natural conservation of the area,” she said.

Navarrete also added that if some of the students get excited about what they learned here and actually start working toward a career in one of these sections of studies then it makes what they did on Friday that much more important.

“This is really valuable for the rest of their life,” Navarrete said.

Contact Cherise Kaechele at 541-786-4234 or ckaechele[at]lagrandeobserver[dot]com . Follow Cherise on Twitter @lgoKaechele.