Twelve Bridges Middle School students experience nature hands-on

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Laughter and happy shouts were heard at the Lincoln High School farm last Thursday, as sixth graders from Twelve Bridges Middle School ran around catching bugs and bullfrogs. The students were at the farm and also the school district’s Outdoor Learning Environment, April 5 through April 9, to learn more about the natural world around them. Instead of going to an environmental camp as was done previously, the Twelve Bridges Middle School sixth graders kept it local to meet California science-curriculum standards, according to Dawn McKinney, one of the sixth-grade teachers. This is the first year for students to visit the farm and outdoor learning environment, and also the first year that 100 percent of the students could participate in the program, according to McKinney. “Last year, about half of the students could go. Half had this wonderful environmental experience and half had a classroom experience,” McKinney said. “We wanted something where 100 percent of the kids could go.” Krystal Arnold, another sixth-grade teacher from the school, said the trip cost the kids $20 instead of $200 for camp. Arnold said the program was a good way for the youth to get out of the classroom to see what they’ve read about in books. “Look at how excited they are,” Arnold said. “You don’t get that excited when reading a book.” At the farm, students caught bugs by sweeping nets over grass; collected bullfrogs, crawdads and tadpoles while knee-deep in the wetlands; watched birds of the wetlands, and looked at fairy shrimp and tadpoles from vernal pools. While visiting the outdoor learning environment, students learned about oak woodland birds, oak woodland trees, mammals and invertebrates, and also about the American Indians who once lived in the area. Sixth-grade teacher Ann Kita said all of the sixth-teachers contributed to planning the new program, which included outlining the curriculum and getting the students prepared for what they would learn during the experience via lessons and textbook reading. “This is where school should be, outside as much as they can be,” Kita said. “The kids spend a lot of time in text books but that’s not the real world. If any of the kids are inspired to be scientists, this is their inspiration.” Arnold said the program was also important because the students were “getting exposed to what they could take in high school.” The sixth-graders appeared to be enjoying themselves both at the farm and the outdoor learning environment, and each seemed to have a favorite part of the four-day experience. Jake Olson, 12, said he liked learning about the vernal pools. “Vernal pools are important because their habitat is key to some animals,” Jake said. “We’re learning about the environment in our area because we’re isolated and never get to see stuff like this. It’s exciting.” Marianne Floro, 12, wanted to catch a frog in the wetlands and said she enjoyed learning about the vernal pools. “We got to walk into the vernal pool, which has lots of animals and creatures,” Marianne said. Kita said vernal pools are pools of water that occur in the spring and “contain creatures like fairy shrimp and tadpoles.” “I liked going into the water and catching bugs,” Cody Blue, 12, said. “It’s the first thing I actually liked from school because we could be outside, learn stuff and enjoy the fresh air.”