Partnership Brings Students Into Outdoor Classroom
by Sallie Carter, Communications and Outreach Manager
At The Nature Conservancy, we believe the best way to inspire a love of nature and a passion for conservation is to get kids outdoors. Thanks to a generous grant from Toyota, we have partnered with the educators at Bluegrass Greensource to transform our Dupree Nature Preserve into an outdoor classroom in September and October.
While at the preserve, students visited four distinct learning stations – native wildlife, watersheds, compass navigation and human history.
Here students learned about the different plants and animals native to the Kentucky River Palisades while getting the chance to pass around antlers, skulls and pelts from some of the animals. Students then participated in a simulation designed to demonstrate how the availability of natural resources affects wildlife populations. Students were divided into two groups: deer and resources. Without letting the other group know, the children who were resources chose whether to be water, food or shelter, while the kids who were deer chose which resource they would need. Then the deer would have to race to claim their resources, with any left standing without food, water, or shelter representing a loss to the deer population. The results of several iterations of this game were graphed so that children could visualize how the scarcity and abundance of resources affected the deer population over time.
Here students learned about watersheds and how the surrounding vegetation, topography, and human activities affect our streams, rivers, and lakes. Students then built their own watersheds!
When the watersheds were complete, spray bottles were used to simulate rain and students observed how the topography affected the distribution and accumulation of water into tiny rivers and lakes. They saw first-hand how flash-floods can happen and how bodies of water are formed.
Students polished their outdoor skills by learning how to use a compass to navigate. Many of the students had never held a compass, so it took a little while for them to get a hang of it. Once everyone was comfortable, the students took a walk around the nature preserve using the compass as their guide.
During the lesson about the human history of the area, students learned about the resourcefulness of the early settlers as they made their way down the Kentucky River. Just as these settlers had to be creative in using the resources available to them, students were then asked to use a piece of string and items they collected from their surroundings to make rafts that would transport livestock down the river.
If you are interested in having a class or home school group participate in a similar field trip next year, contact us to receive more information.
The Dupree Nature Preserve is one of three Nature Conservancy preserves located in the Kentucky River Palisades. It includes nearly 300 acres and about 6 miles of hiking trails meandering through open fields or prairies (filled this time of the year with beautiful flowers including sunflowers, wind stem, golden rod and asters and native grasses) and mature woodlands with lots of views of the river, limestone cliffs and sinkholes. The trails also go to the banks of the Kentucky River following the route of a historic roadway. All three nature preserves have parking areas and hiking trails and are open to the public without charge from daylight to dark.