Outdoor classroom (Slideshow 12)
Story and photos by Daniel Nolker
School was in session in the outdoors on Friday for the Washington Middle School eighth grade.
Bridgette Kurtz, WMS Family and Consumer Science teacher, said around 100 eighth grade students attended the third annual Dawson County Conservation District Outdoor Classroom at Jim Ekland’s ranch located nearly 10 miles west on the Bloomfield highway.
“The Outdoor Classroom is a hands on learning experience to teach students about different aspects of agriculture, methods of using telemetry and GPS, various concepts relating to conservation and the roles of county and state entities,” said Dawson County Conservation District Administrator Nikki Wesolek. “It took a couple months to plan it, but this is a good way for the conservation district to be involved in the community.”
The students learned about soil erosion and river issues by building their own model river systems, studied ancient hunting techniques by learning to throw atlatls and considered some challenges faced by modern farmers and ranchers as they looked at methods of pest control.
Robert Mitchell with Natural Resources Conservation Service in Miles City served as the instructor at the station about using the ancient dart throwing weapon known as an atlatl. Each student took turns throwing spear-like darts at targets painted like woolly mammoths and saber toothed cats.
“It’s an excellent way to capture the group’s attention and get them active,” Mitchell said.”
The event is only possible through collaboration between WMS, Fish Wildlife, and Parks, and several county conservation districts. The entities all work together and they are usually very willing to help out, Wesolek said.
“I think it’s so awesome that we have this connection with the conservation district,” Kurtz said. “The kids just love it out here. They will take at least one thing from each station.”
Eighth grader Justin Skartved said his favorite station involved using GPS and run by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“I really liked finding the pennies with the GPS. It’s fun being outside. It’s better than being inside all day,” Skartved said.
Kaitlin Olson said her favorite part was playing with the sand and learning how rivers erode.
“I think the Outdoor Classroom is really interesting and I think the kids like getting out of the classroom and applying lessons to the real world,” said WMS Librarian Kodi Hoffman as she helped out on Friday.
Reach Daniel Nolker at firstname.lastname@example.org.