Lake County Intermediate’s fourth graders embarked on an adventurous field trip at Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA). The weather was sunny and serene as teachers and parents grouped up the bustling children. Colorado Parks and Wildlife educators incorporated the grade level ecosystem unit into their stations.
Jamie discussed how the Arkansas River runs through Leadville’s backyard! Students had a fun time solidifying their knowledge of nonliving and living elements that work together in balance to create healthy ecosystems. Using tin foil river models, kids filled one with hay (vegetation), while the other was polluted and so grew nothing. Do you remember the difference between the contaminated river model and the healthy one? Did the brightly colored fish eggs stay in place or float away?
To Sheryl’s pleasant surprise, fourth graders were already experts on adaptations. As it turns out, each kid had an individual assignment in class to research an organism’s adaptations. Sheryl dressed a student from each group as a beaver to demonstrate features that help beavers survive along the Arkansas River and the surrounding tributaries. Were you astounded that the riparian ecosystem there was created by glaciation?
Students had a blast following the Project Wild curriculum for the thicket game! One predator stood and tried to spot prey with sharp eyesight. Up on tiptoes or down in a squat, the predator would point and describe prey. Next round, the spotted prey also became predators in one area to try to spot the other children ten feet closer. The ones found last or not at all wore neutral colors, were still and quiet, or pinned themselves to the ground. These are examples of both physical and behavioral adaptations!
Tracy led students on a spectacular nature hike from riverside riparian ecosystem to drier pinyon-juniper shrubland. Youth learned to use binoculars and spotted things in the distance. Tracy challenged excited bodies to sit still and listen to the surrounding sounds of nature! Students compared neat skins of the ringtail cat and the skunk, which are native to these ecosystems.
At the amphitheater Mallory eagerly discussed the predator-prey relationship between bighorn sheep and mountain lions. Skulls, skins, and pictures of them displayed how animals’ bodies are made especially for their behaviors. Remember the rhyme for the eye sockets of predators and prey?
Next students found resources as sheep in the game Oh Sheep! Predators (students acting as mountain lions) were later introduced to regulate the sheep population.
Everyone enjoyed the sunshine for Lake County Intermediate’s SOLE field trip at AHRA. Fourth graders cleaned up trash to respect the landscape. Some amazed young people even noticed a bald eagle flying overhead. It was a splendid day to enjoy the outdoors and make new connections about ecosystems!