Students get hands-on learning through Eco-Ed program

The fifth and sixth grade classes of Hettinger were afforded the opportunity to get out and enjoy Mirror Lake and the surrounding park. But it wasn’t for an extended recess period, the kids were brought to the park for some hands-on learning, and they all got their feet wet, literally.

Savannah Hibberd (Left) and Heidi Larson (Right) wade through the waters of Mirror Lake during the Eco-ED program. (PHOTO BY COLE BENZ | Adams County Record)
Savannah Hibberd (Left) and Heidi Larson (Right) wade through the waters of Mirror Lake during the Eco-ED program. (PHOTO BY COLE BENZ | Adams County Record)

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

The fifth and sixth grade classes of Hettinger were afforded the opportunity to get out and enjoy Mirror Lake and the surrounding park. But it wasn’t for an extended recess period, the kids were brought to the park for some hands-on learning, and they all got their feet wet, literally.

Through a program called Eco-Ed students are taught the importance of the ecosystem, the effects of pollution and educated on water quality.

The program was established in the mid 90s and was funded by grants for the pilot run from 1990 to 1997 with the Barnes County Soil Conservation District agreeing to take over as lead sponsor.

During that time period the curriculum was established and it consisted of five different fields of study. Each subject would be developed by educators and professionals in that area of interest.

The program was made state-wide in 1998 and funded through the Environmental Protection Agency Section 319 and soil conservation districts across North Dakota.

The goal of the program is to give the students the knowledge and appreciation of the natural resources at an early age so that later on in their adult life they will make better decisions.

Students are exposed to the Eco-Ed program in Hettinger every two years. So between the fifth and sixth grade classes students get to participate once.

The five stations and their facilitators included the Prairie, which was led by Amanda Berg of the NRCS; Water Quality, headed up by Jim Collins of the North Dakota Department of Health; Wetlands led by Ben Geaumont of the Extension Service; Soils with Cody Hatzenbuhler of NRCS lecturing the students; and Woodlands led by Tom Claeys of the North Dakota Forest Service.

Along with the five stations, a sixth presenter is always added to the program. This year the presenter was from the Prairie Water Education and Research Center at Valley City State University. Louis Wieland brought waders for the students, and they got their feet wet.

Wading through the waters of Mirror Lake the kids were given nets to scoop up and search for anything they could find. Some items found included tiny fish, shells and rocks.

Adams County Soil Conservation District Clerk Gail Froelich said that this year’s event went very smooth and that all the post-event evaluations were very positive.

Overall they had nine chaperones that included teachers, faculty, parents and coworkers of Froelich.

When asked if she thought the hands on aspect of the program is effective she said “Oh I do, and I also think that it will apply to them in the classroom later on.”

This was Froelich’s first year operating Eco-Ed and her first impressions were great. The day went well and the kids were engaged, something Froelich considers a successful day, and added that the volunteers helping made that happen.

“I think it was just a very successful day,” Froelich said. “But that had to do with all of the facilitators, the chaperones, the teachers and the faculty at the school, I mean it was a team effort.”