“The idea [Junior High students going to Nature’s Classroom] comes from a Montessori concept. Children at this age have the ability and need to do real work: work for somebody else that is hands-on, using their large muscles,” said JH Directress Sarah Pearce of the purpose behind the three trips that her students take to Nature’s Classroom every year.
Nature's Classroom Institute is the nation's premier environmental education program; as such, they are constantly busy hosting and teaching students, which leaves little time to focus on improvements to the institute itself. The three week long Land Labs that our students attend fulfill this need.
While at Nature’s Classroom, our students help with farm duty, composting, and trail maintenance, as well as tackling larger projects, such as paving a pathway and working on a DNR habitat restoration project of the old Rainbow Springs golf course. Through all of these activities, students “learn to live and work as a community,” said Ms. Pearce.
7th grader Anna M. agreed by saying, “Paving that pathway was a good illustration of what we can do as a community. We did it all in one week and that was a long path!”
The DNR habitat restoration of the old Rainbow Springs golf course was a significant project for our students during their most recent Land Lab. When the golf course was originally built, culverts were added, which altered the flow of water through the area. These culverts caused the water to flow very quickly in certain areas, picking-up excess dirt and causing the waterway to be inhabitable for fish.
To alleviate this issue the culverts are going to be removed. Our students helped with the habitat restoration by first working on chopping down buckthorn, which is an invasive species. Then, the buckthorn was tied-up into bundles that could be placed in the water to help catch the excess dirt and create a fish habitat. “It was great that we could fix one thing [eliminating the buckthorn] and then use those materials to fix another [buckthorn bundles in the waterway]. And, it was all-natural, we didn’t introduce any other species or chemicals or anything to fix these problems,” commented Anna M.
8th grader Olivier A. learned some important lessons from participating in the habitat restoration. “You shouldn’t just go out and destroy a habitat. What you do affects all life in the area. Here [Rainbow Springs], they destroyed the fish habitat so that there is now no life here.” Certainly, the experiences our students have at Nature’s Classroom help them to understand that stewardship of the natural world matters.