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More fun than recess

At the seventh-grade outdoor education experience day at Eco Park students netted crayfish and other aquatic creatures. James Card Photo

Waupaca students head outdoors

By James Card

The seventh-grade outdoor education experience day was better than last year and last year’s event was considered a big success.
The idea is to take Waupaca Middle School students outside and give them hands-on experience in nature.

The field day was held at Eco Park and is a collaboration between the Winchester Academy, the Waupaca Parks and Recreation Department and the Waupaca Middle School. The event was helped with funding from the Selma and Gerald Knoepfel Memorial Fund.
This year’s event on Friday, Sept. 22, was improved because now they had access to the Waupaca River.

Last year, the boardwalk was in disrepair but this year the Civilian Conservation Corps replaced the entire boardwalk with new wood and steel footers.

Also as a bonus, the Waupaca Public Library added story walk signs along the trail. A person reads the beginning of the story on the first sign and then discovers where the trail and the story goes from there.

With river access, the students could capture a more diverse sampling of macro-invertebrates from the Waupaca River. Last year’s only option was the semi-swampy retention pond.

Aquatic creatures

Under the tutelage of Dr. Justin Sipiorski, a professor from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, they netted and indentified aquatic creatures as vehicles rolled over the State Highway 22 bridge.

On the trail down to the river, Bob Welch of the Waupaca Field Station, had a tackle box filled with bird banding equipment. He demonstrated bird banding and held up a string of bands for hummingbirds that were so tiny only a thin wire could pass through their diameter.

“With the boardwalk being finished, that’s what me and [seventh-grade teacher Ryan] Dayton had envisioned as being able to use the river down there. And we have [Bob] Welch that has the ability to go bird banding down there and that is really a lot of hands on stuff for the kids,” said seventh-grade teacher Kyle Mannel.

Dayton and Mannel watched the weather all week. Rain was in the forecast. Tents were set up for back-up and for shade. They lucked out with a breezy, sunny autumn day.

“We were going to do it rain or shine,” said Mannel.

Learning stations

Students rotated to the various stations throughout the day.

Dr. Xia Lee, an expert on ticks and their illness, had human mannequins set up and loaded with dead wood ticks. Students were to find the ticks and his session was about teaching the students to be safe and self-sufficient in handling wood ticks on their own.

Wayne Cain and Alex LeClair of Aquamos Coffee had presentation on mushrooms ecology, composting coffee grounds, and they had a wind tunnel contraption that simulated tornadoes.

Chuck Ritzenhaler hosted a session on insects and spiders.

Dr. Sarah Jane Alger had a display that showcased the behavioral thermoregulation of cockroaches.

Inside Eco Park’s cabin, students from the UW-Stevens Point herpetology club showcased various reptiles, including Freya, a rescued wood turtle missing its front paws.

Dr. Terrance Gerlach’s session on the cabin porch was about the formation of kettle lakes.

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