WHEATLAND — Kids ages 4-17 fanned out across the woodlands and prairie and ventured to the bog at the Seno K/RLT Conservancy property in Wheatland earlier this month to take part in the Citizen Scientists program.
A group of six of the youngest nature explorers, whom Pam Folbrecht calls “wood ducks,” headed out on June 5 to find the giant bur oak on the property, a white pine and a bluebird box before doing a nature-based craft.
They sang an impromptu version of the song “The Ants Go Marching,” replacing the word “ants” with the word “ducks,” as they walked single file through the forest.
While the group was made up of home-schooled children, property manager Sherry Nino said she hopes more children will take part in the program once school is out for the summer.
“I am hoping to attract the general public now that school is out,” Nino said. “We want kids to learn to respect nature, but also to enjoy it. You can climb a tree, but don’t choose a little one or peel the bark off it.”
About a year ago, Nino started volunteering to lead educational programs at the conservancy, 3606 Dyer Lake Road (Highway P), just south of the Burlington town line, twice a month for families that home-school their children. The amount of interest led her to increase the number of offerings for home-schooled children to as many as five per month.
Open to the public
Now, on the first Wednesday of the month, one of those offerings, the Citizen Scientist program, is open to the public free of charge.
The Citizen Scientist classes are broken into three age groups for children ages 4-6, 7-11 and 12 and older.
“We want to make it so families with kids of multiple ages have a spot for each one of their kids during the same time slot and on the same day,” Nino said.
There is a limit of 10 kids per age group, so reservations are taken.
While there is a general theme and planned activities for each outing, time is purposely built into the schedule for spontaneous exploration.
For example, one day a group found the skeletal remains of an opossum. So, they took time to examine it.
Jennifer Flickinger led a group ranging in age from 7-11 to the prairie Wednesday with the goal of helping them develop “a sense of wonder,” based on a book by renowned scientist and nature writer Rachel Carson.
The group carried a field journal in which to sketch and take notes about what they saw, heard and felt as they interacted with nature.
Along a groomed path within the prairie, the group stopped to peer into one of the bluebird boxes.
“There are baby birds in there,” Nori Vyvyan said in excitement as Flickinger lifted Lorelai Neu, 7, so she could see the nest.
The older kids headed to the bog on the property with a microscope to conduct water quality tests and a stream walking survey.
“There is always at least one class related to the bog, and there is always some sort of hands-on learning,” Nino said.
That group will also work on categorizing the plants, animals and trees on the property and help remove invasive species.
For more information, or to register for an Family Outings upcoming Citizen Scientist program, message Nino through the conservancy’s Facebook page, call her at 262-539-3222 or send an email to email@example.com.