Students get closer to nature

On-site environmental studies added to curriculum

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Elementary school students are learning about the environment while helping to improve it in a cooperative project with the Craig Kiwanis Club.

Children from East, Sunset and Ridgeview elementary schools have completed the project, which included constructing and placing signs along the nature trail at Loudy-Simpson Park.

"This is a great way for the students to learn about the environment while they also put something towards it," said Gail Petch, Sunset Elementary School teacher. "Last summer, four teachers were presented with the opportunity to write curriculum that would help them to incorporate the community into children's learning. This was one of the options that was available, and it has worked out great."

Cheryl Arnette, Paula Bray, Shannon Samuelson and Petch are the four teachers who spearheaded the project, not only instructing students in the building of the signs, but also teaching about the various plants and animals that the signs feature.

"We split it up so that each of the four classes would be responsible for the knowledge and information on the sign," Arnette said. "The second graders were in charge of the signs dealing with mammals, the first graders studied butterflies and frogs, and the two fourth-grade classes studied birds, vegetables and plants."

The students also created a new brochure for trail users, alerting them to the new signs, as well as some of the different wildlife and plants they will see throughout the year. On Wednesday, the Kiwanis Club will secure the signs in cement to deter theft and vandalism, a problem that arose late-Sunday evening.

"We had the signs out for less than 24 hours, and someone came along and threw one in the river," Arnette said. "We are trying to teach these kids the importance of respecting the property of others, and someone goes and does something like this. Hopefully, if nothing else, the kids will learn how important that is, and they won't do the same to others in the future."

The kiosk that sits along the entrance to the Kiwanis trail will also be redone, so that students who have worked on the project can have their name added. Colorado State Parks is assisting the group with that project.

"There were three things that we really wanted to accomplish by constructing these signs," Arnette said. "First, we wanted to get the children of various ages to all come together and work on a project. We also wanted to incorporate a project between all three elementary schools, so the children could learn with students that they don't normally work with.

"And, we wanted to establish a level of community involvement for the kids by getting them out of a school setting and outside where their impact can be felt. We really believe that there is a lot of learning that can go on outside of school, and outside of the classroom."

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