Shrieks and squeals.
Oohs and aahs.
Muck and mire.
The scene was reminiscent of treasure hunters panning for gold only this was much better, especially when you are a kid on a field trip.
USD 428 sixth graders traveled to Cheyenne Bottoms this week to sieve through the mud in search of aquatic insects and other invertebrates. Outfitted in rubber boots and armed with nets, the students took to the challenge like … a pig takes to mud.
Pam Martin, Kansas Wetlands Education Center educator, instructed the kids on what to look for and how to find it. She cautioned them to watch for snakes and to practice the “Cheyenne Bottoms Shimmy” by taking small steps so they would not become mired in the thick, black goo.
“We want to give the students an idea of what animals live in the wetlands, especially those invertebrates at the base of the food chain,” said Curtis Wolf, KWEC site manager. “They collect the samples, bring them back and identify them. What they discover are life forms that look like things from ‘Star Wars.’ Without stopping to really look, they have no idea they are there.”
Wolf said his staff including Martin and fellow educator, Eric Giesing, helped develop “Wetlands Study” and other programs that work closely with the district’s science curriculum.
“Getting students outside for environmental education is important,” Wolf said, noting the lessons learned are much longer lasting than those they read about in a classroom. “We provide a good, really fun experience.
“We give local students an idea of what this place is all about,” he said. “It’s an important part of our mission.”
After two hours at the wetlands, all the students were accounted for and returned to school. They were a bit wet, a little muddy, a lot tired and much more knowledgeable about what goes on beneath the surface at Cheyenne Bottoms.